- C​reme

Biodegradable coffee cups being "grown" to reduce plastic waste

A US company have just taken "grow your own veg" to a whole new level

1y ago

Get your heads around this one. Here we present to you: biodegradable coffee cups 'grown' from fruit by an innovative design company in a bid to cut down on plastic waste. Grown.

The reusable cups are made from gourds, a fruit in the pumpkin family, which are grown inside 3D printed moulds to make them the perfect coffee-cup shape when picked. We repeat — veg is being grown into the shape of coffee cups!

Gourds can be compared to fast-growing squashes and were used centuries ago as drinking containers, thanks to their waxy outer shell. They were dried out and held hot liquids as effectively as ceramics or whatever else they used in the olden days.

The architecture and design company, Creme, owned by award-winning architect Jun Aizaki, tested the moulds in their studio in Brooklyn and then set up The Gourd Project . They now grow cup and flask-shaped gourds at a farm just outside of New York in the US. Minds blown.

T​he coffee cup moulds by Creme

T​he coffee cup moulds by Creme

Tania Kaufmann, the company's business manager told The Telegraph: "The inspiration actually came from how the Japanese grow their watermelons.

"They are grown in moulds into a square shape so they are easily transported and stackable, so we thought we might be able to grow gourds using moulds in the shape of cups and flasks.

"Creme identified gourds as a fast-growing plant which bears robust fruits each season, developing a strong outer skin, and fibrous inner flesh.  Once dried, gourds have historically been used by our ancestors as receptacles like cups. Creme explored this centuries-old craft."

Photo by 煜翔 肖 on Unsplash

Photo by 煜翔 肖 on Unsplash

T​here's no denying disposable coffee cups are bad news for the environment. In 2011 it was estimated that 2.5 billion coffee cups are thrown away each year (a number likely to be even higher now). The average American office worker gets through about 500 disposable cups every year.

It is not easy for us consumers to recycle takeaway coffee cups due to the mixture of paper and plastic used in their inner lining, which makes the cup heatproof and leakproof. Plus, most of us are on the go when drinking coffee and chuck the cups in the nearest bin.

As a result the majority of cups, more than 99.75 per cent, do not get recycled.  In 2017, a study found that just one in 400 coffee cups are recycled, even if it is thrown into a recycling bin.

Fang Yuan Chuang Unsplash

Fang Yuan Chuang Unsplash

Moves towards using resuable coffee mugs have been made. Pret, for example, will charge you 50p less if you bring a reusable cup while companies such as KeepCup and Ecoffee are making reusable cups the must-have accessory while boosting our eco-credentials. In 2018 the UK Government began to mull the prospect of a 'latte levy', a 25p tax on disposable coffee cups.

The good new, or gourd news rather, is these vegetables only take around six weeks to grow, and the cups can hold up to 443ml of water - just short of the 473ml in a medium, or 'grande' sized Starbucks coffee cup.

Ms Kaufmann added: "The company is focusing on creating a sustainable alternative to the single-use plastic cup. This cup of the future.”

R​educe. Reuse. Grow coffee cup with seeds planted ready to grow after use

R​educe. Reuse. Grow coffee cup with seeds planted ready to grow after use

Meanwhile back in 2015 a Californian initiative, called Reduce. Reuse. Grow partnered with designer Alex Henige to design a limited edition coffee cup that contains seeds.

A customer simply drinks a beverage then takes the cup home, after five minutes soaking in water, the coffee cup is ready to plant and plants, flowers, even trees flourish. Each cup is biodegradable within 180 days and release seeds and nutrients into local landfills.

We haven't heard about them recently. Maybe they didn't catch on, or did they? Please tell us if you have used, grown or planted a coffee cup recently.

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Comments (8)

  • I'd have no problem planting a cup but if the cup had embedded seeds in it, couldn't they somehow detach into my drink, go down to mah belley, take root and grow out my arse? 0/10 that's no good

      1 year ago
  • now you see this, to people like me, and is actually a nonproblem because drinking coffee from plastic cups shouldn't even be allowed in the first place. It's either porcelain/demitasse/China cup or glass, plastic should have never been considered

      1 year ago
  • Interesting. I'm still hurting from the whole paper straws are a good alternative betrayal though. They weren't.

      1 year ago
    • Paper straws were a huge fail. Did you know in Italy they are using pasta as straws? They last up to an hour per drink!

        1 year ago
  • As buddha says, when in the garden with a cup of tea, " contemplate the Lotus "

      1 year ago
  • Prudent or not ?

    I'm all for fun themed holidays, but there comes a time when the medieval village novelty wears a tad thin.

    120 years ago, 40 % of Americans were farm labourers.

    Tractors , and tractor accessories, liberated them, and us.

    Today , American agriculture employs but 2 % of Americans.

    I re use small plastic disposable containers in the kitchen for left overs .

    Prevention of food spoilage is a Home Econ. 101 priority.

    And it's cheaper than Tupperware.

    There are commercially available biodegradable nutrient infused veg seedling punnets. .

    But I have long suspected they are un necessary, and if you think about it , or if you have had experience in a commercial or indeed an " organic nursery, ( I have in both and I have also built a high production organic edible plant nursery from scratch ), you'll be forgiven for thinking that re useable plastic seedling punnets may possibly make better economic sense.

    Vege seedling punnets can be reused maybe several dozen times.

    Biodegradable ones can only be used once.

    When you compare the working life of biodegradable and plastic, you might well ask the question :

    In what way does a biodegradable punnet reduce manufacturing costs, either in coal consumed by factories, time , labour or pennies ?

    I'm not sure what the answer is.

    I will say, that my lemon tree, which grows in a large plastic pot, thrived with regular doses of coffee grounds and tea leaves, so perhaps the coffee grounds are more effectively utilised as a direct soil supplement, rather than as a clever punnet ?

    Again, I'm not sure.

    Commercial nurseries are productive, because they use plastic pots which are provided by the plastic manufacturers, which source their feedstock from the oil or gas industries.

    So all this lovely landscaping you see in modern suburban house developments, relies on the oil and gas industry, admittedly only in a very small way.

    The quantity of oil and gas utilised for commercial nursery pot production is miniscule.

    Potatoes corn and wheat growing was a highly productive well organised , modern scientific process, long before hippies, like Neil from " The Young Ones " " rediscovered " comfrey, yarrow , valerian, lemongrass, Lucerne, and all the other organic soil improvement plants that can be added to a typical British productive allotment veg garden .

    The secret to food productivity increases is artificial fertilisers, tractors and centre pivot irrigators, drones, and micro robots that weed out the weeds, and harvest veg, which have been progressively supplementing eons of established organic ag science knowledge.

    And Dutch hydroponic veg production, per acre, has to be seen to be believed.

    And the secret to market gardening is the miniature versions of the same thing.

    Small American lawn tractors with tiny ploughs and trailers, have liberated millions of Americans from manual labour. youtu.be/P7YC04Fp5XQ


    That's why American produce monumental amounts of the staples.


    Note that Jeremy simply has a relatively small second hand tractor, ( less soil compaction issues) some boffins and ye olde gardening chaps to talk to, and a well chosen bit of farm.

    Geologically speaking, Britain has generally good depth of soil, and a very diverse mineralogical make up.

    So there's lots of trace elements.

    Happy gardening at what ever scale and with which ever method or methods you choose.

      1 year ago