Home Compostable Cup


The Solution

Each year 58 billion take away coffee cups are being wastefully disposed�creating landfill, misallocating resources and supporting a �throw away� culture in the process.  Attempts have been made to create a �compostable� cup with limited success.   The liner used for the so-called �compostable� cup breaks down only in industrial conditions (140 deg C for 3 weeks) and renders the cup impossible to recycle in the waste paper stream.  
The solution that we have created is a Home Compostable coffee cup and lid made from commercially available materials that are recyclable in the waste paper stream and certified home compostable�specifically Palm Fiber pulp for the base cup material, lined with Mater-Bi (r), a moisture barrier/liner made from vegetable starches.   Palm Fiber pulp and related products are created and commercialized by Earthcycle Packaging Ltd.
Earthcycle combines technology and the design brilliance of nature to help reduce the waste, pollution, and illogical use of fossil fuels associated with making disposable packaging. We use palm fiber an annually renewable resource to create disposable food packaging which composts in 90 days, turning into a healthy contribution for the soil.

A by-product of the production of palm oil, palm fiber is considered an agricultural waste product, left over from the palm oil harvest, and is usually burned.  On the palm oil tree, a large husk, called a Full Fruit Bunch (FFB), grows and contains up to 2,000 fruit. When the fruit is ripe, the FFB is harvested for milling-one palm tree produces fruit two to three times per year. In the milling process, the FFBs are sterilized and stripped of the fruit; the fruit is then pressed in order to extract the crude palm oil (CPO).

After separating the fruit from the FFBs, what remains is called an Empty Fruit Bunch (EFB)-a fibrous mass that is considered waste by the palm millers.  In typical mill operations, the EFB is mulched for use as fertilizer or for soil remediation; unfortunately, there still remains an abundance of excess fiber that is burned, causing an environmental hazard.

Instead of burning, we steam, chop and mulch the fiber into a useable form for pulping.  The company�s manufacturing operation uses no chemicals, dyes, or bleaches to produce the raw, natural pulp that is then molded into many different shapes and sizes or pressed into sheets for paper.  The material is certified home compostable, recyclable, and renewable, and complies with all North American and European food grade standards.

Palm fiber pulp is now made into commercially available food packaging and is used in making paper products.  It can easily be made in gauges to support the creation of coffee cups, which would then be lined with Mater-Bi. 

Behaviour Changes
Paired with the introduction of the Home Compostable Cup would be an extensive campaign to educate the consumer about the full lifecycle of the product and the need for their participation in helping to �close the loop�.  Similar to international plastic bag campaigns, consumers will be rewarded for bringing back a Home Compostable Cup to their local Starbucks by receiving a small price reduction (up to 5 cents) on their order. 

Each Starbucks location would be equipped with a collection system called BokashiCycle (tm), which would collect the day�s home compostable cup returns along with food scraps and coffee grounds.  BokashiCycle is an anaerobic system that ferments food scraps and other compostable waste products through the addition of natural microbes (www.bokashicycle.com).  The BokashiCycle bins placed at each Starbucks to would be back hauled when full by one of the many Starbuck�s packaging suppliers�i.e. Bunzl, Sysco�after delivering supplies. 

Environmental  Impacts
Palm trees give fruit throughout the year, so the material is more than annually renewable.   The material has been certified according to the ASTM standard for renewability.
As we are using a starch based liner, we are reducing the use of petroleum based plastics for the moisture barrier.
The Home Compostable Cup is more easily accepted in existing commercial compost facilities and can be composted more quickly and under less intensive (i.e. costly, energy intensive) operations.
The entire cup and lid is also recyclable, so if consumers do not bring back the cup or compost it in their own backyards, they an include the cup and lid in the waste paper recycling stream.
By using an anaerobic system to process the waste, greenhouse gases are reduced .

Next Steps
As both Earthcycle Palm Fiber Pulp and Mater Bi are commercially available, with scalable production facilities, the first step would be to create a prototype.   To do this, we would need to find a converter which could take the pulp and form it into a cup and, ideally, have the capability to spray on the liner.  The important point to consider is that many converters already exist the North America and Europe to do manufacturing process.  There would need to be obvious investments in new capital equipment, but an entire industry would not have to be created. 

Other entries in this project