The world’s first reusable cup made with used cups

Circular design practice Circular and Co developed rCUP, a reusable travel mug made from recycled used coffee cups.

Each year, billions of coffee cups end up on the landfill because they are notoriously difficult to recycle. The inside of the cup is provided with a in layer of plastic to prevent the paper from becoming soggy, but after use, this same layer prevents wide-spread recycling.

More and more coffee places accept reusable cups customers bring with them, and there are many different types available: made of ceramics, metal, (recycled) plastic, and even coffee grounds.

With rCUP, a cup made of a new material has come available: recycled paper coffee cups. Used cups are collected through third partners from various businesses, universities, cafes and events. The cups are cleaned and shredded. A certain level of contamination of lids, straws, and sugar is acceptable. The process is cost effective, since no sorting or separating energy is required, and the cups can keep their plastic lining.

Paper cups are made of high quality paper, with long cellulose fibres. After shredding, the cups are mixed with a 50 per cent recycled polypropylene (PP). The long cellulose fibres allow for a strong bond between the paper cup material and the polymer. To this mixture an additive is added to aid the bonding.

The resulting material is processed into small pellets, which are then turned into the cups. An rCUP is made from 40 per cent recycled content, with the outer thermal layer consisting of 30 per cent cups and 70 per cent recycled PP. The remaining 60 per cent is made from virgin plastic, as recycled materials are not generally food safe.

The BPA-free cups are available in black and white, with an assortment of coloured lids. The cups com in 340 ml (12oz) and 227 ml (8oz). The leak-proof lid can be opened with a push on the top. Rather than one drinking hole, the cup allows “a 360° drinking experience”. The cup is well insulated and keeps your drink warm for about 90 minutes.

After use, the cups are 100 per cent recyclable along with everyday household recycling.

Photos: ashortwalk / rCUP / Sean Gee