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Recupero and Tazza

The Recupero system locally sources fibrous material; collecting, forming, and recycling eco-friendly cups within a participating location.

Photo of Walter S Galvez
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Idea Title

Recupero Solutions

Please include a visual (can be either 2D or 3D) representation/prototype of your concept. (required)

Recupero Solutions is an on-site, small-scale manufacturing system that shows the recycling process as a consumer experience. It takes all the advantages of the fiber cups used today and incorporates new technologies in waste management to create a cup and lid that is more environmentally friendly. Participating businesses can feed their packaging cardboard and paper into the grinder to save on resources. Location specific plant fibers can also be added that would normally go into the trash and businesses can use the coffee grinds that are used throughout the day. The machine grinds up all the material including recovered cups then adds water to create a pulp slurry. The slurry is vacuum formed into the shape of the cups in three sizes (small, medium, and large) along with the lids much like how pulp egg cartons are made. The resulting products are then dried and saturated with an organic food safe compound to create a hydrophobic coating that prevents break down during normal use. The cups are then able to be used immediately or stacked for storage.

Since the cups and lids are made of pulp, they will naturally break down when returned to local waste management systems. However, customers are incentivized to place cups back into the store’s collection system (either directly into the hopper for grinding or a separate collection container) with an electronic sensor system that will distribute points or rewards to their membership through contributors’’ phones. The collected cups are washed before being placed into the grinder to be used as materials to make other cups.

After initial startup, the store would save on the cost of materials due to in house manufacturing. This method of manufacturing can be adapted to a large scale process and cups can be ordered with the same features and characteristics for locations that are unable to manufacture in house. 

The Recupero system promotes user awareness by showing customers how cups are made, the resources used for each cup, and how throwing cups away takes up space that could be saved.

This solution addresses which of the following:

  • Hot Cup Only
  • Cup Lids
  • Reusable System
  • Alternative Delivery System

How is your concept recoverable?

The main problem with to-go cups is that while they can be recycled in certain cases, they are not placed in the correct receptacle (either recycling or compost). Due to this, they take up space in landfills. The idea of the Recupero system would be to further standardize and streamline the recoverability of to-go cups and create an infrastructure that would better be able to collect them. Resources would be saved if there was a mutually beneficial system in place that allowed consumers to drop off their used coffee cups at either the location where it was purchased, or at another participating location. In the event that the cup does not end up in a proper retrieval site, it will break down in local waste management treatment facilities or compost naturally.

How have you incorporated additional sustainability attributes (beyond recoverability) into your solution?

Our solution offers the ability to use resources that would otherwise go into local waste management systems or landfills. It also takes care of creating the lid of the cups as well instead of using plastic. By having the lids part of the pulp molded process it can also be reclaimed and used as materials or composted. By foregoing the option of plastic, we are not using a petroleum based product. The cup forming process will also include the logo as a raised image to eliminate the use of inks.

What regions do you plan to address with your solution (and how will you accomplish this)?

Our solution focuses mainly on the United States market, but can be applied to various other regions. We would propose to test it out in suburban settings first and once the solution can handle the demand of customers, we would test it in urban and city locations.

Describe your target market. Who will benefit from your product?

Since our solution is more geared towards setting up an infrastructure for recoverability, our target market would be businesses and business owners. These constituents would be interested in a way to save on resources and cost, as well as be able to capitalize on the fact that they are using recycled cups. While the upfront cost would be higher, there would be an overall saving since cups and lids would not need to be ordered and transported to locations. The in house manufacturing would save on inventory space and the materials would not be added to their garbage pile.

What is the current stage of development of your idea?

  • Research & Early Testing

What are the biggest challenges you are facing today? What are existing gaps in your solution?

As an academic Industrial Design team, we will need help with scaling and market access. Though this is reliant on a working small-scale system that can make cups in house, additional supply may be needed to keep up with store demand and provide products for locations that do not have the space or facilities to manufacture in-store. Regarding Supply Chain, the cups are intended to be recoverable in the store’s collection system, but there may be challenges in having cups return to the original store they were made in, thus the collection system would also require a regional redistribution as the cups are recovered for materials. Since we are an academic ID team, the team is currently in need of R&D support to develop the acceptable processing parameters for the slurry consistency and vacuum forming to form an equivalent to-go cup to the industry standard. Primarily, we would need support in the downselection of an organic food safe compound for hydrophobic coating.

Mentorship Needs (please select up to 3)

  • Materials and Technical Development
  • Engineering and Manufacturing
  • Supply Chain

Tell us about yourself and your team. What is your background and experience?

Recupero Solutions is made up of industrial designers Nicole Emerson, James Ferretti, Matthew Behre, and Erika Reyes from Kean University’s Michael Graves College. They are joined by Walter Galvez, a medical device industry engineering professional.

In what city are you located?

Union, NJ

In what country are you located?


Please describe how becoming a Top Idea will support the growth of your concept.

Becoming a Top Idea will help to accelerate our solution by providing some additional industry market access previously unavailable to the team. Gaining visibility will be valuable for Recupero Solutions in establishing contacts in the foodservice and recovery system industry. Funding will be utilized to prototype various iterations of the cup forming process, as well as a University campus-wide and eventual city-wide pilot program implementation with an integrated rewards system.

How did you hear about the Challenge?

  • Someone in my network (word of mouth)
  • Other

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