Ever been to a festival and looked around? Music, sunshine, happy faces and good times all around. Look a bit down, just around your ankles and you'll see the problem: Cups. Disposable plastic cups. Tons of them. In general these are made of PET and PLA. When the festival is over it is treated as general waste. Together with the other waste it is scraped together, put onto a large heap and picked up. Like most general waste it is then burned.
Something to smile about: Happy Cups
The problem... (Glastonbury festival, image courtesy of EPA)
What a waste! Luckily we'll see a change on festivals as of this season. Yes, there will be bands and sunshine, but the faces will not be the only happy thing. You'll notice the ability to move your feet without feeling all those discarded cups. In your hand will be a brand new Happy Cup entirely made from biobased material and a much more sustainable solution compared to what we nowadays are familiar with. That same drink will taste so much better next time.
Let's delve into the story behind the Happy Cups, small cups for a big change. It all started nearly 8 years ago when Dutch company LIMM Recycling started working with various partners, encouraged by the locally funded Biobased Economy Project from the municipality of Ooststellingwerf, to develop a PHA based coffee cup. This was not merely designing a cup and choosing the right material to make it with, but serious studies have been made to see behavioral changes during events, product design, market research, the durability and sustainability of the cup and the difference between a PHA cup compared to a cup made of a traditional petrochemical cup.Visit the Happy Cups website
Initially starting as the biocups it was later re-named Happy Cups during its multi-year development process as part of the Interreg BIOCAS program in collaboration with the Province of Fryslân. The reason PHA was chosen, supplied by Helian Polymers, was that (rather obviously, we know now) a Life Cycle Assessment has shown that PHA has less impact on the environment than PP-R, PET, PLA or PC plastics. Festivals in the Netherlands alone produce 62 million kg of waste every year and a significant part is due to the aforementioned cups which are o-so-easily dropped and forgotten.
In 2020 the cup was ready to be launched during the Dutch festival season, but a certain global pandemic disrupted those plans, amongst many, and the reveal was postponed. Until now... In 2022 the Happy Cup will find its way to Dutch festivals. Again and again. Not only are the Happy Cups biobased and biodegradable, it is also highly reusable! They can be returned, washed and refilled. And after the festival they can be stored, waiting for the next event.
It makes this 100% biobased solution a great and viable alternative compared to the other options. The company Happy Cups is rolling out the cups this summer to selected festivals with hopefully many more large festivals to follow in the years to come!
What is it that makes PHA so special? Natural PHAs are a class of materials that exist in nature for over millions of years. These materials are both biobased and biodegradable, similar to other natural materials such as cellulose, proteins, and starch. Natural PHAs are produced by an extensive variety of microorganisms through bacterial fermentation. Due to its high performance, biocompatibility, biodegradability, and green credentials, the PHA family has a large design space and accommodates a wide range of market applications, as a broad variety of different polymers can be produced and blended. The potential of PHAs is enormous.Learn more about PHA
Helian Polymers provides PHA based solutions and actively works with its customers to help with the development of applications, even going so far to source the right masterbatches (colorants) for the end products. With strategic partnerships and active material development Helian is able to offer bespoke solutions to meet customers’ specific needs. PHAradox’ emphasis on innovation and high quality application development make it an ideal partner in a rapidly changing social, environmental and regulatory landscape. With PHAradox we help partners to make the transition from plastics to PHA based solutions.
If you visit a Dutch festival in the next few months, keep an eye out for the Happy Cups!Curious about the Happy Cups? Contact them directly here!
The Happy Cup at your favorite festival? Keep an eye out!