Feel guilty every time you throw away your “recyclable” coffee cup? From edible waffles to origami cups, innovators have come up with some ingenious alternatives.

Coffee is one of the most popular drinks on the planet, with an estimated two billion cups consumed around the world every day.

However, with coffee’s global popularity comes a global problem: how best to dispose of takeaway coffee cups. UK consumers throw away around 2.5 billion disposable coffee cups every year.

Conventional “recyclable” cups are laminated to make them waterproof and can only by recycled in special facilities.

Consequently, the UK Government is trying to tackle the problem with the help of the high street’s best-known coffee brands. They include Caffe Nero, Costa Coffee, McDonald’s, Pret A Manger and Starbucks.

All of these brands have agreed to collect and recycle more of the current type of cups. However, more radical approaches to the problem of disposable coffee cups could provide a solution.

Image © Frugalpac

Frugalpac – the really recyclable cup

UK company Frugalpac has developed a coffee cup that can be recycled in normal recycling plants.

“We looked at this three years ago: everyone was blaming someone else, the cup makers, the coffee shops, councils. We thought, why don’t we go out there and solve the problem?” Frugalpac founder Martin Myerscough told BBC News.

Frugalpac does include a plastic lining − about 10% of the weight of the cup – but it separates easily during recycling. However, at present the cup does include a plastic lid.

Myerscough is currently working with Starbucks to develop Frugalpac further.

Cupffee – the edible waffle cup

The brainchild of three Bulgarian friends, Cupffee is a waffle cup that you can eat after finishing your hot beverage.

Furthermore, Cupffee can hold a coffee for up to 40 minutes and the biodegradable waffle contains no preservatives, colourings or coatings.

Described as “a delicious revolution in coffee consumption and ecology”, Cupffee is yet to take off outside Bulgaria. In addition, the “crispy drinking” cups have a limited shelf life, meaning they may not be suitable for large coffee chains.

TrioCup – fold and drink

Next month, students at a US university will be able to drink their morning coffee from an origami cup.

Hong Kong engineering student Tom Chan is the brains behind TrioCup. The consumer tucks in foldable flaps on the triangular-shaped cardboard cup to close it.

TrioCup is 100% recyclable, cheaper than regular cups and has no separate plastic lid. In addition, Chan claims it can be dropped from waist height and most of the coffee will remain in the cup.

Cup Club – coffee cup recycling for generation rent

The ratio of consumers who buy and return reusable coffee cups is just 2% of all the total coffee sold.

Award-winning designer Safia Qureshi decided to tackle the problem and came up with Cup Club.

The premise is simple: the Cup Club member picks up a reusable cup when they buy their coffee. Afterwards, they return it to a collection point. Cup Club then collects, washes and redistributes the cup to retailers.

Furthermore, consumers receive a text reminding them to return their RFID-tagged cups. Qureshi plans to roll out the scheme across London.

Read about the environmental impact of packaging in the latest edition of Packaging & Converting Intelligence. In addition, check out the latest news and views from the global drinks market in Beverage Packaging Innovation.

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