A new California-based start-up is marketing an environmentally friendly coffee cup that you can bury in the ground when you’re finished with it, and cultivate the seeds that are embedded in its fibres. And the best part about these cups is that, depending on where you buy one, you’ll be planting seeds that are native to your region.
Developed by a company called Reduce. Reuse. Grow., the cups are a response to the 25 billion styrofoam cups thrown out in the US every year - waste that will still be sitting in landfill somewhere 500 years from now. When you consider that on a global scale we’re drinking about 500 billion cups of coffee, most of which we’re not making at home, that’s a colossal amount of non-biodegradable cups to deal with.
As the team over at Earth Porm explains, even recycling isn’t much of an answer to this problem. "Once a product has been broken down about three times it is no longer effective to recycle it because it doesn’t have enough fibres left. This is how billions of coffee cups end up in landfills, even if they were originally recycled."
By planting a fully biodegradable cup in the ground - one that breaks down in 180 days and is guaranteed to sprout at least one tree - you’re not only removing your cups from the landfill equation, you’re growing something out of it too.
The process involves flattening the cup out and soaking it in water for five minutes. The seed-rich cardboard is then buried in the ground, and then it’s up to you to tend to the seedlings when they sprout. If you’re good at it, you’ll end up cultivating a tree that can live for 40 years or beyond. And if you really just can’t be bothered with all that, Reduce. Reuse. Grow. will be providing special bins where their discarded cups will be collected up and planted by their staff.
Earth Porm reports that over 140,000 of these cups have already been planted in parts of California, and the company is now seeking donations on KickStarter to launch them in other locations, including San Francisco and Colorado. While the styrofoam cup has become truly ubiquitous all over the world, inventions like this, and decisions like New York City’s blanket ban on foam cups and containers by July 2015, just might put a meaningful dent in their numbers.