The UK coffee market is heavily reliant on single-use paper cups to package takeaway coffee. The composition of these cups means that they cannot be recycled and therefore go landfill. As a result, this linear system contributes to the emission of greenhouse gases and the infiltration of microplastics in Earth's oceans. Solutions like reusable cups have attempted to curb this environmental problem; however, their adoption rates are low due to the inconvenience of cleaning and carrying them after each use.
Therefore, to tackle this environmental problem and achieve widespread adoption, the coffee industry needs to implement circular systems that work with consumers' existing behaviours and their desires for convenience. We began by analysing existing forms of coffee packaging to understand their embodied energy, CO2 footprint, and end of life potential. We focused our attention on paper cups as they are the most common form of packaging and are unrecyclable. Then we analysed the lifecycle of single-use cups for consumers and businesses, identifying key touchpoints and leakages within the system. This analysis identified that the material composition of single-use cups and the convenience of disposing of them were the critical factors for development.
Therefore, we developed the Java Cup, a reusable and bio-based cup made from corn starch that could be repeatedly used and fully recycled whilst maintaining the mechanical properties of existing cups. Java Cups feature localised artwork as an interactive layer for consumers to express themselves and their neighbourhood. The Java Cup works within the Java System, which operates across large coffee chains, SME's, and independent cafés through a monthly subscription service that includes a stock of reusable cups and a daily cleaning and redistribution service. This system means that consumers can dispose of their cups at any participating store, which is incredibly convenient in high-density areas where coffee shops can outnumber public bins.See the portfolio