cal poly news

His Cup Groweth Over

By Jo Ann Lloyd

Photo Jennifer Olson; Illustration Nicole Moliné

If all goes according to Alex Henige’s plan, that morning cup of coffee will do much more than get people’s motors running. It will reduce waste, reforest fire prone areas and overgrazed land, and create beautiful community gardens.

Henige, who graduated in spring 2015 with a bachelor’s degree in landscape architecture, created Reduce. Reuse. Grow. Plantable Coffee Cup, a completely biodegradable cup embedded with tree, wildflower or vegetable seeds.

The idea has been brewing for about two years. “I was driving home to San Diego and saw a bunch of trash on the side of the road when the idea hit me,” he said.

Henige has since educated himself about global waste systems and explored materials and companies to work with. He also launched a KickStarter campaign that attracted 569 backers who pledged $21,077 — more than double his goal of $10,000 — to help bring his project to fruition.

The implications are potentially huge. “We are the first company to put seeds in a package that consumers use daily,” Henige said. Indeed, it’s estimated that Americans consume 400 million cups of coffee daily.

“We are also unique in that we will offer a service to collect the cups and take them to reforestation sites, ensuring consumers that their waste is being taken care of responsibly,” he said.

The technology can eventually be applied to many other paper products, and at very little cost. According to Henige, the coffee cup costs one cent more than the conventional option.

Still in prototype stage, the product has garnered major international media coverage in such outlets as Today.com, The Huffington Post, Landscape Architecture Magazine, and FoodandWine.com.

Henige plans to test market the cup this fall, and estimates it will be another year or two before the cup is widely available.

Learn more at planttrash.com.

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