FoodBev excels at bringing you the latest in packaging innovation, so here are the world’s first plantable cups: currently a concept developed by Alex Henige, you can bet it won’t be long before we see them in cafés and on shelves everywhere.
I spoke to Alex about the company – Reduce. Reuse. Grow. – and this major step in packaging and container sustainability.
What gave you the initial idea; what was the thinking behind the launch?
I’m originally from San Diego, where I was born and raised, and am at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, where I’m studying landscape architecture as my major with a minor in packaging and industrial technologies. I had the idea for Reduce. Reuse. Grow. when I was driving on the [US route] 101 in California heading back home from school one day when I saw a bunch of trash on the side of the road, and thought what if each piece of trash was a plant?
The idea led me to South Africa to work and live in a township two summers ago to immerse myself in communities affected by pollution and poor waste responsibility. This helped really develop my idea mentally, as well as proof that the idea’s concept could positively affect these communities, especially when I traveled to Central America this past summer when I was living with communities affected by deforestation, while on a surf trip with some of my friends. This proved that this product could really take off, but it needed to be tested and funded here in California.
This is where I started laying out and prototyping the concept this past September. Since then I have created a series of functioning prototypes and now it’s time to vamp it up to the manufacturing scale and quality of a product which would be available on the market. This is what I hope to have proven and tested here by the end of this coming September!
Where are you having the cups made and what have been the technical challenges along the way?
Currently all the prototypes are manufactured under handmade processes down in San Diego. The challenges we are about to face are due to the temperature fluxes within the manufacturing processes. However, we have more information now and should be able to solve it within testing and create innovation within the manufacturing processes for packaging overall at the same time.
The prototype cup from Reduce. Reuse. Grow.]
How long does the paper take to biodegrade and what are the seeds incorporated in it?
The cups will be in accordance with ASTM Standards D6400, complying with compostability, stating that the cup must biodegrade by 90% within 180 days. So far with the prototypes we have, this will not be a problem as the paper we are currently using is in accordance with this standard.
The native seeds include more than 20 varieties of California native wild flowers, including California golden poppy, desert bluebells and fuchsia, as well as a variety of lupin.
What outlets do you have so far?
So far the channels are not solidified, however we have had a variety of range of industry reaching out to us. We have found a much larger market than anticipated, however this will solidify more once we start testing these different scenarios to see how they deal with the cups under their certain situations.
We are definitely looking for partners as well as a variety of commercial manufacturers who are looking to help invest and test this new type of technology and material.
© FoodBev Media Ltd 2019