Led by former Dyson designer and inventor Dan Dicker, ashortwalk was built from a desire to create meaningful products from recycled materials, a short walk from the sea. For us, waste materials are both a challenge and an opportunity, not just to talk about a more sustainable future, but to participate in its creation.
As well as our own products we work with retail brands and recycling firms who want to turn their waste into useful new products. This is called ‘closed loop’ design and contributes towards the development of the circular economy.
The story of rCUP
In late 2016 we were asked to develop ideas to turn used paper coffee cups into new products. At the time, a BBC campaign led by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall had successfully raised public awareness of the fact that only 0.4% of the disposable cups they used were actually being recycled. The tide had turned on our throwaway culture and people were demanding a more sustainable way to enjoy their coffee.
What can we do with waste coffee cups?
We started thinking about a way to use coffee cup waste. The reason why most paper cups aren’t recycled is because they have a plastic lining, which makes them difficult to recycle as paper.
One of our polymer and recycling partners, Nextek had recently carried out a PHD on recycling used paper cups with Imperial College London. Rather than trying to seperate the paper from the liner they took the logical approach of recycling the whole cup. By cleaning and shredding the cup they found a clever way of blending the strong fibres of the cup to a recycled plastic polymer. We were then able to begin work on blending this polymer with other recycled materials to mould it into new useful products.
Creating a genuinely useful reusable cup
The rCUP reusable coffee cup was designed by our team of product designers to be genuinely useful. The most important thing when designing a reusable cup or bottle is that it works! To eliminate the need for single use cups and bottles, our design had to be functional anywhere and everywhere:
100% leak proof
Well built, robust and long lasting
Can be opened and closed with one hand
Keeps drinks warm or cool depending on what’s in it
Can be picked up even when the contents are very hot
Gives an enjoyable drinking experience just like a real mug
Our mission is to make apparently useless materials into useful products, so it was just as important to make sure we used up all those cups going to landfill. rCUP is the the only reusable cup that reduces and recycles. Plus at the end of its very long life - at least 10 years - it will be recycled into the next product.
A cup that is made from waste, helps recycle waste and reduces waste
Our cup is the only one that is made from the single use cups that are still being used in coffee shops and cafes every day.
It’s all about the circular economy – by creating products from used cups we’ve stimulated the demand for the once worthless used paper cup. This demand increases the value of used paper cups, which enables recycling firms to invest in the infrastructure required to recycle them. In real terms discarded coffee cups have zero value - in fact it actually costs £100 a tonne to dispose of them. But when we capture and collect these cups for recycling, the value increases to around £35 a tonne. If you then process them into a useful polymer the value shoots up to £1,200 a tonne. When this polymer is used to make a new product, say, an rCUP reusable cup, its intrinsic value becomes £20,000 a tonne! This is the huge value of closed loop product design.