Coffee + origami = no more plastic lids

Last month, US-based startup Unocup launched its ‘no-lid, foldable paper coffee cup’ on Kickstarter. The Unocup is a to-go coffee cup that is more sustainable than the traditional alternative, because it does not have a plastic lid. Instead, the Unocup has origami-like paper folds at the top. The Kickstarter campaign aims to raise USD 14,500 to fund an effort to manufacture and distribute the cups to cafes and restaurants.

Let’s hope that plastic coffee lids — and plastic straws! — are about to be innovated out of existence. Two takeaways:

END OF EXCESS. How big a problem are takeaway cups? Well, NYC alone uses an estimated four million plastic coffee lids a day. Worldwide, it’s estimated that we get through 600 billion takeaway cups a year. And hardly any end up being recycled. Yep, it’s a HUGE problem. And in a world in which single-use, disposable materials are still high on the agenda for many, it’s intolerable to rising numbers of consumers. No wonder the takeaway cup is now the focus of so much innovation: flashback to this initiative which is seeing Starbucks and others come together to reinvent the takeaway cup and open source the new, sustainable design. Okay, you don’t make coffee cups. But the challenge to any brand is clear: are you doing everything you can to remove single-use plastics and other unsustainable materials from your offering?

Re-inventing the wheel. The to-go coffee cup we use today came about in 1967. Since then it has changed little. It’s surely no accident that this icon of throw-away consumerism is being reinvented now. As we highlighted just a few days ago, we’re at a crucial tipping point moment when it comes to the search for a more sustainable consumerism. In 2020, rising numbers will seek to avoid the deepening eco-shame attached to much of their consumption. This is a powerful trend, set to play out for years to come: the result will be a disruption of legacy business and consumerism that will reinvent far more than just the takeaway cup. It’s time to ask yourself: what does the emergence of mainstream eco-shame mean for you?