Unocup: A coffee cup which doesn’t need a plastic lid

For most of us, the morning cup of coffee is a sacrosanct ritual, one without which our days would hardly be the same. We are familiar with how difficult it is to come out of the morning haze without a trip to the nearby coffee shop. It isn’t the same unless we have the Styrofoam or plastic cup in our hands filled with steaming coffee. However, did you know that each cup of coffee you consume might be hampering the environment? The truth is that almost 99% of the plastic coffee cups disposed around the world are not recycled.

Coffee cup with a lead, Image credit:

They end up in a landfill and are ultimately incinerated, leading to emission of greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide. Most eateries who serve coffee use single-use serve ware– cups, lids, napkins and stirrers. These single-use items end up increasing the carbon footprint of the hospitality industry.

According to a 2018 estimate, around 16 billion coffee cups are used worldwide every year. The resources used in their production require over 6.5 million trees to be cut down, 4 billion gallons of water to be wasted and the electricity used is equivalent to light up over 54,000 homes every year. While plastic cups take millions to decompose, paper cups don’t fare any better as they take over 20 years to decompose.

For those looking to enjoy a cup of coffee without worrying about its environmental impact, Unocup is a great bet. The spill-proof cup made from recycled paper is a great improvement over single-use Styrofoam and plastic cups.

Unocup is a unique cup which has a lid integrated with the design, which does away the need of using a separate plastic lid. The cup’s ergonomic design makes it ideal for having coffee on the go. The folds prevent the lid to be undone and pop off. The three sides of the cup can be folded either outwards or inwards, depending on the way you like to sip your coffee. Then there is also a tab which is tucked into a slot and creates an opening for the liquid to pass through.

Unocup is the brainchild of entrepreneurs and long-time friends Tom Chan and Kaanur Papo. Chan got the idea about a revolutionary design for a coffee cup, which would do away with plastic lids. The concept ended up being lauded at various platforms and was also exhibited in a national museum in Taiwan.

Chan and Papo got together in 2019 to work on the design and make it a reality. The duo went vetted over 800 prototypes, before arriving at the final design. The company claims that the cup’s design is not only spill-proof but is also cost-effective and easy to manufacture. The duo is hoping to raise more funds for their project by launching it on Kickstarter.

Unocup hopes to impact the amount of plastic waste which ends up in oceans through its unique design. Chan and Papo claim that plastic lids served along with coffee cups comprise 5% of the8.25 tonne of plastic waste which ends up discarded in oceans.

The company claims that Unocup also has an edge over plastic cups in terms of user experience. Their design is similar to that of a take-out box, which is usually used by eateries serving Chinese food. Without the sharp lids, as is the case with plastic cups, it is easier to drink from an Unocup. Hence, servers and baristas wouldn’t have to fiddle too long to fit lids on coffee cups, thereby boosting their efficiency.

There are a few other startups which are moving towards offering more sustainable options for consumption of food and beverages. Planet + is one of them. The range is completely compostable and is covered with a resin-based lining instead of a petroleum-based one. Not only are these cups non-toxic and durable, but they are also leak-proof. This means Planet + compostable cups are ideal for taking them on the go. They are available in multiple sizes, the smallest being 4 ounces and the biggest being 20 ounces. The company also manufactures compostable lids to go with these cups.

World Art Hot Cups, manufactured by Eco Products, is an ideal combination between a vibrant design and functionality. These cups are available in eclectic designs making them a delight to own. These disposable cups are made completely from renewable resources and are available in multiple sizes. The smallest size is 2 ounces and the biggest is 20 ounces. Also, these cups are made using a process which complies with ASTM standards of compostability.

Yet another option which you have at your disposal is the World Centric FSC Paper Hot Cups. These cups are made from FSC paper, which means that the raw materials used in their production are sourced from sustainably managed forests. These are coated with plant-based sealers, which makes them 100% compostable.


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