A Sydney-based coffee lover with a passion for environmental sustainability has just created a new, reusable bamboo coffee cup, made from the offcuts of bamboo chopsticks.
Ed Burton, a marketing professional turned full-time coffee cup designer, kept seeing plastic coffee cups being casually discarded on the beach. So he decided to create a coffee cup that looks and feels like a regular takeaway coffee cup, but is free of plastics. His upcycled habit coffee cup is a durable, lightweight and biodegradable alternative to disposable coffee cups that end up in landfill.
“People are awake to sustainability,” says Burton. “They want to make a difference, but they need more choice. There should be more products that look after the bigger picture, but more importantly, they should do that and be something we actually want to use.”
As a first-time product designer, Burton took around 18 months to create the cup concept.
“People are awake to sustainability. They want to make a difference, but they need more choice."
“I tried a number of reusable cups, made from different materials but none of them fit my needs,” Burton tells SBS. “Reusable plastic coffee cups are not sustainable and the plastic impairs the taste of the coffee. People are often scared of breaking reusable glass coffee cups and ceramic cups are heavy and get quite hot."
“I also tried to use a bamboo coffee cup. It also got pretty hot to hold, but the concept of the bamboo cup got me thinking: the material was sustainable, but was there a way to reduce the heat of the cup?"
Burton’s final design features two bamboo cups, placed inside each other to provide a double wall for extra insulation.
"The concept of the bamboo cup got me thinking: the material was sustainable, but was there a way to reduce the heat of the cup?"
“It has two really thick layers of bamboo that allows you to pour boiling water into the internal cup, but because there is a second cup outside, you never touch the hot internal cup. This design allows your coffee to stay hotter for longer, but you won’t feel the heat of the coffee.”
Burton explains that to make the cup, he first collects the bamboo offcuts from a likeminded chopsticks supplier.
“We use the offcuts and chipping that don’t get made into chopsticks and refine that down into a powder-like substance,” he says.
“We then mix that as a material with corn starch and a natural resin – which is essentially your glue. That is heated to the correct temperature and then placed into a double-wall mould that we’ve created. When that sets, that’s our cup.
“From start to finish, it’s around a three-to-four week process to make a cup depending on how much chipping the supplier has left over.”
The first batch of 1000 new reusable habit coffee cups is currently in production.
Funded by an $8000 Kickstarter campaign, the initial round of cups will be distributed to people who donated to the fundraising activity and pre-ordered the new product.
Although the online campaign is now closed, the company will continue to take orders through its website as they come in.
In November, Burton’s company will formally launch the new habit bamboo cup. From that point onwards, shoppers around the world will be able to buy the product online and soon receive the cup via a quick dispatch.
The cup comes in three colours – natural wood, blue and black – which all retail at $22 each.
Burton believes the biodegradable cup will last for around two years. However, the longevity of the product still needs to be tested.
“But it won’t, just one day, disintegrate in your hands if you pour coffee into it. It is robust," he says. “We want people to use the cups for the right reasons. We really want to be part of an existing movement that is creating sustainable products.”