We know there’s too much plastic waste in the world. But, for a population addicted to single-use plastics, covering everything from our clothing to our coffee, how do we begin to make a difference?
In the immediate term, we can switch to products that are sustainable and plastic-free. Products like Unocup.
Unocup is the brainchild of New York-based designers Tom Chan and Kaanur Papo. In 2015, as reported in Fast Company, the duo knocked up 800 prototypes for a spill-resistant, foldable coffee cup made of paper. Their final design ended up winning the $100,000 New Plastics Economy Innovation Prize, in part organised by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation.
View this post on Instagram
Another shot of founders @tomchan333 and @papo_rodolfo showing the plastic lid-free to go coffee cup, Unocup at Brooklyn Army Terminal. Lots of great feedback! Huge thanks to @futureworksnyc for hosting. Link in bio for more info. #sustainability #coffee #togo #design #nyc #brooklynarmyterminal #startup #innovation #coffeetogo #closeloop #papercup #cup #origami #folding #lid #productdesign #industrialdesign #zerowaste #green #ecofriendly #designer #paper
The intervening years have been spent refining the design. Unocup is a “single, origami-like cup that folds to create a lid,” meaning there’s no need for the tonnes and tonnes of hot drink lids created and binned every year. The style of the folds mean the paper ‘lid’ cannot pop off on its own, and the cup’s three sides can be folded in various ways to fit personal drinking preferences.
The creators say Unocup is optimised for mass production using existing cup-making machinery, thereby yielding significant cost and energy savings in manufacturing, storage and transportation that would otherwise be spent on plastic lids.
The duo have launched a Kickstarter campaign to raise enough money (a modest $14,500) to produce the first batch of cups and bring their product to market. The money will also support a partnership with New York artist Alexis Kandra, whose nature-focused designs will adorn several of the cups.
The plan is to ship the Unocups out by next summer.
Robert Scott Lazar