If you work in an office and you drink coffee, you probably throw out around 500 disposable cups in a year. Across the U.S., over 23 billion paper cups end up in the trash annually, along with another 25 billion made from Styrofoam. And while travel mugs can solve the problem, they’re not very convenient—especially if you commute to work on the train or by bicycle rather than in a car.
One alternative is a new collapsible cup now raising money on Kickstarter: After you're done with your coffee, the Smash Cup folds down into a disc just slightly taller than a lid. It's leak-proof, so the whole thing can be tossed into a pocket or bag without fear of coffee dribbling out over a phone or laptop.
The cup was the brainchild of three friends who were, of course, sitting at a coffee shop. "We were thinking about how many cups we throw away and how there should be some solution we can take with us, but as urban people, the options just weren't viable," says Ben Melinger, founder of the startup. "A big coffee mug with a handle doesn't really work for someone who works in the city."
After one of his friends sketched a simple drawing of the idea, Melinger went to work figuring out how to make it real. "I left my job and I taught myself 3D CAD modeling, prototyping, sourcing, and manufacturing, all that sort of stuff," he says.
Two years later, the result is a BPA-free, glue-free silicone and plastic mug that's about the size of a regular paper cup when it's open. "It's reminiscent of disposable coffee cups," Melinger says. To collapse, the cup is smashed against a table or wall, which makes the layers fold in on one another. The cup can be washed in a dishwasher or by hand.
Unlike another idea to reduce coffee cup waste—a "cup-sharing" program being tested in New York City—the Smash Cup has the advantage of being yours alone.
"There’s something nice about having something that’s yours. But it works if you're on the move. It's for somebody who’s roaming around during the day and doesn’t have that freedom of a place to store stuff," Melinger says.