Office workers who drink coffee toss out, on average, 500 disposable cups in a year.

While travel mugs can solve the problem, they’re not convenient, especially for public transit and bike commuters.

One alternative is a new collapsible cup now crowdfunding 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 the fear of coffee dribbling out over a phone or laptop.

The cup was the brainchild of three friends who were sitting at a coffee shop. 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," co-founder Ben 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.

"It’s your cup--you own it," Melinger says. "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."

2014-07-11

Co.Exist

Your New Coffee Cup Fits In Your Pocket

The average coffee-addicted office worker throws out an astounding 500 disposable cups a year. This travel mug could help, because it actually lives up to its name.

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.

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14 Comments

  • SustyPro

    I have always liked this idea, but the issue isn't reusable cups, its getting restaurants, etc. to allow you to use your own and pay you a fair price. Since the sizes of reusable cups vary that each customer brings in its difficult for companies to allow them to be filled. There are also many other reasons including health, etc. Then there needs to be a discussion on price discounts for those who bring their own. For many locations the only reason you go to the register is to get the cup and pay because refills are free and the coffee is sitting out. A larger discussion concerning the business details needs to be addressed for consumers to be able to use products such as this everyday.

  • Lisa McNamara

    Adele, if you like this then you need to check out another new collapsible cup called Collapse-A-Cup. It's 17 ounces and collapses down to less than 3 inches. Check out www.collapse-a-cup.com, you'll love it so much more than this cup!

  • Adele, a writer myself, I met Ben Schiller in Aspen and started following co.exist -- you guys find the coolest things to report! Thanks!

  • revelationsky

    This is not new. There are plenty of collapsible silicon cups with lids already in the market. The Japanese make very good quality ones and in various sizes as well.

  • revelationsky

    This is not new. There are plenty of collapsible silicon cups with lids already in the market.

  • Rob Jackson

    I'd be interested in how it is considered "food grade" material, its deterioration over time, waste cycle, and production process.

  • Great idea! Environmentally-friendly, and highly portable. So glad to see that there's someone taking action to help reduce the amount of waste we are generating. I hope this idea will take off and that people (venture capitalists or otherwise) will fund this idea to fruition.