Tom Chan was just a sophomore at Cooper Union in 2015 when he came up with the original Unocup concept: a single unit with an origami-like lid that you fold into place to seal liquid inside, eliminating the need for single-use plastic lids. Countless coffee-shop interviews and more than a thousand prototypes later, he and long-time friend Kaanur Papo founded Unocup, in 2019. Funded by a Kickstarter campaign, they are now marketing their cup, a 100% plastic-free, compostable unit that replaces the traditional lid with paper folds that seal the drink tightly. “When people think of sustainable solutions,” Papo says, “they think of certain compromises that have to be made. What’s really exciting about this is that it’s a sustainable and practical solution at the same time.” Currently fulfilling small orders, ranging from 10 to 2,000 cups, that have come off Kickstarter, Chan and Papo are meeting with investors and aiming for a larger rollout to restaurants, coffee shops, and airports by early 2021.
See more honorees from the 2020 Innovation by Design Awards here.