After you finish a cocktail in a new type of glass, you can eat the cup. Loliware, which is made from a base of seaweed and comes in flavors like yuzu citrus or matcha tea, is designed to replace disposable cups at parties that would normally end up in the trash.
Unlike recyclable or compostable cups, these immediately disappear. "It's really meant to be eaten, and we've designed it to be something that would taste good and that you would want to eat," says Leigh Ann Tucker, who co-founded Loliware with fellow designer Chelsea Briganti. "There actually is no waste left behind because you've eaten it, and it's gone."
The flavors can pair with drinks—say, a margarita in the citrus cup—or desserts. The company's biggest customers are caterers and bars.
If someone doesn't finish eating a cup, it can also be composted—including in home compost bins, unlike bioplastic compostable dinnerware that only breaks down in industrial composting facilities. If a cup is littered outside, it will also quickly break down (or potentially become a snack for wildlife).
"If it happens to end up in a stream or a waterway where it's not supposed to, it's going to break down just like a banana peel would if it ends up in a stream," Tucker says. "That is a big step up from other corn-based bioplastics that are actually still a huge issue in waterways."
The designers first created the cups as part of a food competition in 2010. After several years of emails from people who wanted to buy it as a product, they ran a Kickstarter campaign in 2015, and closed a round of seed funding (led by Mark Cuban, after a stint on Shark Tank) in early 2016.
The design, which initially began as a fancy version of a jello mold, took years to get right. "The main thing has always been—and we're still trying to perfect this—is finding a balance between something that is structural enough to be functional as a container, and be something that you can hold in your hand and drink from, and also something that you can enjoy eating," she says.
To solve the challenge of keeping a jello-like cup clean, the cups come with compostable paper sleeves. You can refill the cup several times before eating it.
Tucker and Briganti also spent significant time sourcing organic ingredients, and decided to go GMO-free, because they realized that's what most of their customers would want. (Most bioplastic cups are made with GMO corn.)
While other designers have suggested concepts for edible packaging (like this edible water bottle), Loliware's founders think that their concept is more practical. For one thing, edible packaging on a shelf would face challenges staying clean. The cups also add something fun to an experience, rather than just trying to solve a trash problem.
They plan to add more products—all in the category they call "biodegredible"—beginning with a cup that doubles as a plant-based vitamin, which will launch this month. This fall, they'll also launch a larger cup and shot glass. The cups are available on their website.
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