‘Putting a Lid’ on Coffee Cup Waste: Introducing the Lidless Cup

Photo by mag3737 | flickr.com

Every year, Americans consume close to a billion and a half plastic lids to accompany their early-morning coffee pick-me-ups and afternoon tea; in fact, their presence has become so ubiquitous in our society that we often easily take them for granted for their apparent simplicity and plain old boringness.


Although it has been acknowledged for some time now that paper cups are significantly more sustainable than their Styrofoam counterparts, the issue appears to have largely overlooked the impact of the lid component, which has been in use as early as 1934. Although the designs themselves have ranged significantly in complexity and user-friendliness (ranging from primitive ‘pierce-your-own-tab’ designs to all-new, color-changing ‘temperature sensitive’ lids), their function, and more importantly the petroleum materials from which they are derived, remain largely unchanged.


Compleat, a new and innovative design by Boston architect Peter Herman, however, seeks to revolutionize all this. By creating a structurally sound coffee cup and lid from a single folded piece of paper folded similarly to a takeout container, such a design would allow for branding space on a greater area by incorporating the top, and would eliminate the issue of loose or improperly placed lids leading to spills. In addition, the cup, which is pending patents, would ideally be waterproofed with cellulose-based plastic, allowing for it to be composted. Moreover, the cup could be manufactured by a single supplier, thereby saving retailers money on shipping costs and inventory.


Although the ambitious design provides a solution to the constant annoyance and burden that are plastic cups, some obvious caveats do exist: for one, composting the cup requires composting programs which remain to be implemented in many regions of the world, and in such cases the cups are likely to end up on streetsides or greenspace.


Despite the obvious application to the world of Java, it remains to be seen how this design may potentially be extended for cold drinks at restaurant outlets, and work to perhaps eliminate both the lid and the straw, thereby opening the floodgates to an exponentially lucrative market.


Despite the excitement has the design created, it is important to note that no amount of ingenuity will surpass the simplicity of drinking your beverage of choice in a reusable mug— and in doing so, we can all take a big gulp out of the plastic waste problem.