United States

A one-piece cup that eliminates the need for plastic lids.

Circular Design Challenge winner

Category 3: Reinventing coffee-to-go

TrioCup from the United States offers a disposable paper cup made with an origami-like technique that removes the need for a plastic lid. The team has chosen a 100% compostable material and is working on an alternative that is also 100% recyclable.

How does this innovation accelerate the transition to a circular economy?

The ‘to-go’ culture has long been part of modern life. Sadly, it produces a lot of waste, including polystyrene coffee cup lids that cannot be recycled. TrioCup solves this problem and at the same time makes the to-go cup more spill resistant than the ubiquitous cup-lid combination. It has the potential to design out the need for hundreds of thousands of tonnes of polystyrene that would otherwise be landfilled or leaked into the environment, while at the same time making life easier for coffee lovers. While paper cups are still not widely recycled, work is ongoing to create a recycling pathway for the cup. Preparing for all possibilities, the cup’s liner is made from a material that also makes the cup industrially compostable.

What’s new?

The core of this innovation is the design itself, which is the result of a lot of prototyping and iteration. Many innovators have had the same idea but this one is very solid by comparison. The folding scheme is quick to do (on a par with attaching a lid to a mug) and offers excellent spill resistance. The mugs stack well, and while space efficiency is a bit lower than with standard cups, this is offset by not needing any lids. Initial estimates indicate it has the potential to be cost-competitive with conventional cups and lids to manufacture.

3 questions for the team

Trio Cup Winner Photo

Tom Chan


  • What led you to come up with this idea?

  • Initially I was a big fan of Japanese bottled beverages, yet I always thought throwing the used bottles into the trash was too wasteful. As a result, I wanted to create a more environmentally friendly beverage container and decided to do so for the more popular and less reusable container: the paper coffee cup and lid. Upon starting this endeavor, I realised that there were already patented all-paper cups that were not successful in the marketplace. Because of this, my team and I expanded the cup’s purpose to encompass more than just waste-reduction. We decided to also focus on cost-efficient manufacturing and user-friendliness, with spill-protection as one of the unique properties.

  • Many others are proposing origami-inspired paper cups. What make your idea stand out?

  • TheTrioCup blends a simple, logical, tri-fold lid design onto the paper cup that is visually stylish and distinct. However, this design does not come at the expense of higher manufacturing costs, as the lid integrates seamlessly into existing coffee cup production methods with only minor adjustments. Furthermore, the cost of the extra paper needed to make our cup is more than covered by saving the cost of the plastic lid, ensuring our cup can be cheaper than the typical coffee cup and lid.

  • What excites you the most about the New Plastics Economy Accelerator Programme?

  • The New Plastics Economy Accelerator Programme is the perfect partner for us, as it brings together extensive information to guide our efforts from the Evidence Base and a widespread network from the Dialogue Mechanism. It would allow us to collaborate with packaging manufacturers, businesses involved in plastic collection and reprocessing, and global consumer goods companies. The programme will allow us to learn how to develop a regenerative business from the TrioCup, as well as how to scale up our manufacturing in a cost effective manner in order to break into the market.