Clever Cup Design Reduces Waste, Simplifies Recycling

TreeHugger always says that one should always use a refillable cup and that if you are going takeout, bring your own travel mug. Coffee cup litter is a big problem; Last year we noted the tempest in a coffee cup brewing in Toronto, where the biggest coffee chain refused to redesign their cups to deal with the problem of separating a plastic lid from a paper cup in the recycling process.

So I am a bit conflicted when I show a paper cup, but this is an amazing bit of design from Shamrock Cups. There is no separate lid; instead there is a very clever bit of origami, where you fold the top bit of the cup together in seconds to close and stiffen the cup. It is lighter, and is a lot stronger; no chance of the lid popping off and the coffee spilling because the lid is part of the cup.

shamrock cup from Lloyd Alter on Vimeo.

After reading my whine about Tim Horton lids, Phil Abbott, the inventor of the Shamrock cup, sent me a few to try. The video shows me folding the lid; this is only my second try and it is quick and easy. The cup is solid and easy to drink through the hole provided, a lot more comfortable than the usual flat plastic lid with that stupid fold-back tab. It also stays closed; this is not going to spill in anybody's cupholder.

squeeze test on shamrock cup from Lloyd Alter on Vimeo.

I have had a few disasters where I squeezed a cup too hard and popped the lid, spilling my coffee over everything, so I wanted to see what happened when you squeezed this cup. The lid did not open.

The only disadvantage I can see is that it is not very rigid when the lid is open; there is no rolled rim to stiffen it. People will have to be careful carrying it to where they add the cream and sugar. And in Canada, the annual rite of playing "rrrroll up the rim to win" game will be history.

It is hard for a TreeHugger to come out and say something positive about paper cups, particularly when our founder sells an alternative.. But it is also hard not to be impressed by a great design that would reduce waste, is completely biodegradable (it has a waxed lining instead of plastic) and actually performs better than the one it replaces. What a great idea.

Shamrock's animation showing the evolution of the design.

More at Shamrock Cups (annoying audio on opening screen)