Photo: DTU

BEng students battling against disposable plastic

Wednesday 03 Jul 19
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Liv Gish
Assistant Professor
DTU Diplom
+4522 59 57 23

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Villads Keiding
Associate Professor
DTU Diplom
+4593 51 35 20
A team of BEng students from DTU have developed a new process which makes it easy and cheap to use recycled cups, and which can significantly reduce the use of disposable cups.

By Amanda Wirring Nielsen

Sustainability and environmental awareness are today high on the political agenda, and we daily hear about rivers of plastic in Asia, and about how plastic waste ends up in the oceans—among other places—to the detriment of both animals and humans.

One of the big culprits is the disposable plastic cup, which is very often used for large events, and which is disposed of either directly in the dustbin—and then transported for incineration—or often dumped in nature immediately after use.

A break with throw-away culture
Marcus Hybel Vang, Jon Sødergreen, Johan Tryel, Rikke Eriksen, and Nanna Jelle—who all study BEng in Process and Innovation at DTU—have taken a closer look at this ‘throw-away culture’. On the Green Entrepreneurship course—where the students are given an assignment involving the structure and design of a ‘green’ product or process—the group has come up with a solution that can replace the disposable cup.

“We’ve developed a system that makes it just as easy and cheap for event organizers to use reusable cups as disposable cups,” explains Marcus Hybel Vang.

The system has been named Blue Cup, and the cup is made of the material polypropylene—also known as PP plastic—which is a hard and durable plastic material.

“The choice of material makes the cups hard wearing enough to be collected, washed, and reused up to ten times,” explains Jon Sødergreen.

97 per cent are reused
Based on testing, the students have assessed that their system makes it possible to collect 97 per cent of the cups for reuse, and because customers even recycle their own cup several times for the same event, the Blue Cup has the potential to reduce the quantity of used disposable cups significantly.

“A Blue Cup can replace the equivalent of 30 disposable cups, so—in this way—we avoid a large waste of cups, which would otherwise simply be thrown away,” says Rikke Eriksen.

Easy and inexpensive process
In addition to reducing the quantity of plastic waste, the recycling process for the cups is also inexpensive. It will cost organizers approximately the same to purchase and use the sustainable Blue Cups as it will cost them to purchase plastic cups for their event.

The process is designed so that the organizers only need to ensure that the cups are collected after they have been used. They will then be collected by a third party, which will transport the cups for cleaning. In this way, the students have made sure that the process is not only inexpensive, but that it is also easy for the organizers to become involved in a sustainable solution.

“With the new sustainable process and the reusable Blue Cup, we provide event organizers with an opportunity for a greener alternative to the disposable cup and give the guests an even better drinking experience,” says Rikke Eriksen.

Blue Cup makes it easy and cheap to choose reuse, and—in the long term—this could be the final farewell to disposable plastic.

Green Cup at Green Challenge

The reusable cup concept participates in DTU’s sustainability and innovation conference Green Challenge—both as a concept presented as a case, and as the cup in which beverages are served on the day. In fact, DTU has chosen to practice what it preaches, and is therefore aiming to reduce the environmental impact of an event like this as well.