Starbucks Sponsors Coffee-Cup Redesign Contest

Betacup asks designers to invent a recyclable cup for your morning joe.

Starbucks Cups

Coffee is the second most popular drink in the worldNorth America, after tap water, which means that the empty cappuccino cup on your desk will have plenty of friends when it inevitably gets to the landfill—58 billion of them get tossed every year here. Toby Daniels founded Betacup in May, 2009, to find a solution, and he just announced a major step: Starbucks has agreed to sponsor Betacup's contest to redesign the coffee cup. (Core77 has joined in as a media sponsor.)

The goal: reduce the number of cups tossed into landfills. A lot of virtual ink has been spilled over the high end of coffee-industry design, like "Japanese slow-drippers" and the Clover, and even some over the low end, like the undisputed genius of the Solo coffee-cup lid or the hotly disputed genius of the Dixie cup design, but this full-scale re-imagining of the keystone of the coffee world—the cup itself—is something else. And understandably, it's caught Starbucks's attention.

Starbucks is trying to serve all of its coffee in re-useable or recyclable cups by 2015, and they're offering $10,000 to the winner, and $10,000 to be split among the next best five. The contest kicks off April 1, and runs through June 15. Enter here, and who knows? Some day soon you might be sipping sustainably. Until then, of course, just bring your own mug.

[Via Core77]

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  • Justin Levinson

    The betacup contest is now open! Some good thinking in here, submit your ideas to the community for a shot at the prize money - see for signup details. Even if you don't have an idea, you can be part of the project by rating and discussing concepts submitted by others.

    Justin @thebetacup

  • Toby Daniels


    There are plenty of 'solutions' out there, unfortunately they are not working and non-recyclable paper cup consumption continues to rise and uptake of reusable alternatives is still less than 2%.

    We need a solution that addresses the three core areas: a) system b)cup and c) consumer behavior

    Toby @thebetacup

  • Brian Jones

    @ Matt
    The problem with compostable cups is that most of them aren't composted. They are thrown in a plastic garbage bag and buried in a landfill, preventing the necessary oxygen needed to break the cup down. And 100% recycled java jackets are a downcycled product with a short a life span. While they could continue to be recycled, most of them aren't, which just adds to the growing piles of unnecessary waste in landfills.

  • Matt Meehan

    umm... the coffee shop i frequent uses 100% compostable cups, with 100% recyclable java jackets... it already exists.

  • Stacey Bramley

    @shaun, then surely the $20,000 would be better spent working on behavioural change and raising awareness of the 'range of options' you mention?

    I use a keepcup (, it is an easy and sensible solution. I'm sure all coffee outlets would meet their cup reduction targets quickly if they embraced such products and focussed on changing their customers' behaviours around these.

  • Shaun Abrahamson

    @abigail we think the keepcup is awesome

    however one of the issues that led us to the betacup challenge
    was adoption. there just arent enough people using reusable
    cups, despite a range of options including yours.

    so the challenge remains - we have to go beyond the cup to
    change behavior.

  • abigail forsyth

    2015 - you are five years and 290 billion cups too late. Hot Coffee. Cool Planet.

    There is a fantastic reusable cup already available - the KeepCup. Now sold in over 10 countries including USA, Canada, Japan, UK, Denmark, Australia and New Zealand.

    Where is the love Starbucks ?

    There is enough plastic in 28 disposable cups to make one KeepCup.

  • Marcel Botha


    Thanks for covering our project in Fast Company. We are big fans of your publication and look forward to sharing more information as we move forward.

    @Jason Lombard: That is what we said, hence the betacup challenge will publish results by the summer of 2010, and based on submission we will have a clearer idea on whether we can help solve this problem earlier, in a scalable manner that serves the community at large. It might seem like an easy challenge, but it is in fact one of the hardest challenges faced by retailers and cup suppliers who are committed to find a viable alternative. We will publish more facts and manufacturing process information around this as we move forward.

    @Charli: Thanks, we like them too!

    @ZenTea: Yes, you are right. Coffee is the second most popular drink after water in North America, but it gets "out-strained" by tea in England, Asian and Middle Eastern countries.Since our favorite teas are also served in paper cups in many international cities, I would suggest that the betacup challenge is also an ultimatum for anyone who has ever had tea in a paper cup.

    Thanks for your support. We look forward to your submissions and comments. The challenge starts April 1, 2010.


    Marcel Botha
    The Betacup Team

  • Zen Tea

    Fast Company - fact check needed. Not sure who fed you that "coffee is the second most popular drink in the world" information but it's dead wrong. Tea is second most popular only to water and has been for centuries.