The ‘world’s most environmentally friendly disposable cup’ launches

04 December 2020 by Acre
blog author

A fully recyclable, plastic-free and lidless takeaway cup has launched in the UK.

The ButterflyCup has been designed as a solution to the plastic waste crisis and its founder is in talks with major coffee chains to adopt the patented design. The innovative cup – which requires no separate lid and allows the consumer to drink from its inbuilt drinking spout – was unveiled at WWT (Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust) centres across the UK and is currently used in more than twenty countries across five continents.

Its founder, Tommy McLoughlin, designed ButterflyCup in a bid to help tackle the plastic waste mountain created by disposable cups. The move came after TV chef Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall challenged major coffee chains to switch to a “properly recyclable” cup, with the knowledge that Britons discard 5,000 coffee cups every minute.

Mr Fearnley-Whittingstall said, in his BBC documentary Hugh's War on Waste:

“Only by changing to a cup that is properly recyclable in the public waste disposal system… can they [coffee major coffee chains] justify the bold environmental claims they are making. This is a solvable problem, so let’s see them solve it.”

The plastic lining is the culprit for why most takeaway cups are not recycled and they are often disposed of incorrectly as the container and lid have to be separated. Mr McLoughlin may have helped solve this problem with the introduction of “the world’s most environmentally friendly disposable cup.”

ButterflyCup contains no plastic laminate and its all-in-one design eliminates the need for a plastic lid. The cup, printed with plant-based ink, can be recycled in the regular paper bin along with cardboard and ordinary paper or composted at home or in your food waste bin. 

Despite the rise of reusable cups, the WWF forecasts that by 2030 the UK will use 33 per cent more cups than it does now. Currently, only one in 400 coffee cups is recycled, out of the 2.5 billion thrown out in the UK every year.

If each of the lids from those 2.5 billion discarded cups were placed on top of each other, they would stretch around the whole world.

ButterflyCup has invested more than €500,000 in worldwide patents that underlie its design. One patent is for the two curved paper flaps - which give the cup its name – and create a seal across the top of the cup due to the countervailing pressure generated by each flap pressing against the other.

The second patent is for the inbuilt paper insert inside the ButterflyCup which prevents splashes, leaks and drips. Tommy McLoughlin, Founder and CEO of ButterflyCup said: “We are thrilled to be launching in the UK with WWT, an organisation whose ethos of protecting the natural world we share. 

“It is a travesty that of the billions of coffee cups the UK uses each year, so few get recycled. We created ButterflyCup to lift the lid on this eco-disaster and help solve it. We believe it is the world’s most environmentally friendly disposable cup, and we hope more coffee outlets across the UK give their customers the option of using it in the near future.” 

Lucy Smith, Head of Sustainability at WWT, said: “We are delighted to be using ButterflyCup across all our wetland sites. We have had brilliant feedback from staff and visitors when we trialled it at one of our centres. 

“ButterflyCups could even be reused for seed planting and then put straight in the soil where they will fully break down. The product offers a simple but brilliant solution to part of the plastic waste crisis.” 

The firm has also joined forces with a new €170m paper mill in Finland which produces an innovative paper that can be used for hot drinks cups without the need for a waterproof plastic coating.