For the eco-minded cafe, single-use to-go cups are a tough nut to crack. On one hand, they are vital for a majority of coffee sales, especially since the start of the pandemic where a variety of measures have limited if not outright banned indoor dining (for a time). But on the other hand, they produce a significant amount of waste. An estimated 16 billion are used each year, part of the total 500 billion plastic cups used annually. And even while strides have been made to make the cup recyclable or biodegradable or compostable, the lid has always been the thing, the little plastic necessity that the industry can’t seem to shake.
But a new to-go cup being demoed at A&W locations in Canada offers a (kind of) new solution to the problem of the plastic lid: a paper cup with an integrated paper lid.
As reported by Core77, the Butterfly Cup is a food-grade paper single-use cup that is biodegradable, recyclable, and sustainably sourced, and in lieu of a traditional plastic lid, it utilizes folded paper to create a top and spout out of which to consume the beverage. The lid, part of the overall construction of the cup, uses two paper flaps folded on top of one another to form a seal. It looks like a traditional to-go coffee cup but with a parabola on top of it.
With the flaps closed, the lid forms two spouts, one at each end of the upward points, one for drinking and one for airflow (or maybe two for drinking if are really comfortable sharing with someone in very close proximity).
Per Butterfly Cup, the beverage holder can be used for hot and cold drinks. And unlike most paper cups, the Butterfly Cup forgoes the plastic coating inside the cup—typically used to keep the paper from getting soggy and falling apart—and instead uses a “cutting-edge water-based dispersion waterproofing technology.”
And A&W wants in. Referring to it as the Zero Cup, the fast-food chain announced that for a limited time, they will be running trials with the Butterfly Cup at all their Toronto locations, over 40 in total.
This is not the first cup to solve the lid conundrum with a bit of folding. Back in 2019, we reported on the Unocup, a similar paper cup that took to Kickstarter for funding. But after successfully raising over double their $14,500 goal, the company has gone all but silent, with no updates to their Instagram since August 2020. (According to a message from the company to Kickstarter backers in March of this year, “the project is ongoing despite the slow progress and obstacles.)
While not the first to the idea of a foldable paper lid, Butterfly Cup does appear to be the first to bring the concept to a broader market, thanks in no small part to the buy-in from fast food née root beer company. And if the trial is successful, these could go a long way towards putting a dent in the single-use cup problem. Not requiring any special disposal instructions, the Butterfly Cup can just be tossed in with regular paper recycling, no muss no fuss. Just plastic-free to-go ware that’s easy for the consumer to keep out of the landfill.