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Recyclable Disposable Coffee Cups

A disposable cup comprised of an outer paperboard cup and separate plastic inner liner.

Photo of Alexander Koch
2 0

Written by

Idea Title

Duo Cup

Idea Summary

The main difficulty in recycling paper cups is the removal of the lining, make the cup and the liner separate components that can easily be separated and recycled using standard recycling procedures.

Company / Organization Name (if applicable)

Virginia Commonwealth University.

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

Most common disposable paper cups use paperboard to form the structure of the cup and have a lining of polyethylene. This lining in most common paper cups presents a problem for recycling since it is difficult to separate the two materials. This means that specialized recycling processes are required for these cups that make it more expensive and inconvenient to recycle.

To make a cup easily recyclable by established regular recycling practices the paper cup would have to be easily separable. The Duo Cup is a two-part cup, an outer paperboard cup that would feel and look like a conventional paper cup, and a separate plastic liner that nests inside the outer cup. The inner liner would be thicker than traditional cups and would not be held in with an adhesive, just friction fit. When the cup has been used the two parts could easily be separated and recycled separately.

This solution addresses which of the following:

  • Hot / Cold Fiber Cup
  • Cup Liner

How is your concept recoverable?

This idea makes it possible to recycle disposable cups without altering the established recycling infrastructure. Paper and plastic can both be recycled easily if they are separate.

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

The paperboard outer layer of the Dou Cup will be made of post-consumer recycled paper.

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

This solution could affect very large areas. First, the product could be launched in Richmond Virginia and then can later be expanded across the U.S.

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

The target market for this cup is primarily coffee shops. Other business that provides take-out beverages may also be interested.

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?

Cost analysis for this product is needed. The components of the product are easily manufacturable, however, just how expensive it would be to manufacture compared to the existing common cups.

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?

I am a mechanical engineering student at VCU

In what city are you located?


In what country are you located?


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

Becoming a top idea would help procure funds for research and prototyping.

How did you hear about the Challenge?

  • Other


Join the conversation:

Photo of Koldun Victor

An ordinary cardboard cup breaks down in the natural environment roughly in a year or thereabout. Approximately how the fallen leaves does, consisting of the same cellulose. In order for the new material for the production of cups to become a cost effective replacement of cardboard, it should decompose order faster, somewhere in a month, maybe two or three. This is at an average temperature of 15 degrees Celsius (according to NASA). But when we pour water near a boiling point, at a temperature of 95 degrees, into such cup , according to the rule of Svante August Arrhenius, all the chemical processes in it, including the self-decay of complex molecules, respectively, accelerate. The minimum acceleration will be somewhere 250 times, and the maximum will be about 65,000 times. That is, for a disposable cup that has been filled for at least an hour, and this is a real situation somewhere on a picnic, there is all the chances to pour out their content on the table at best , at worst, on himself or his electronic devices. Even if this cup was made a few days before that and was stored in a stock in perfect conditions.
Therefore, the question arises - how do you deal with such issue?

Photo of Lauren Ito

Hi Alexander Koch ,

A friendly reminder the deadline to edit your submission is toady, November 16 @ 5:00 p.m. Pacific Time. Please ensure all desired information, photos, videos, etc. is included in your submission by that deadline. Email nextgencup@ideo.comwith any questions.