“We know that recycling doesn’t work. Over 90% of U.S. plastic waste is never recycled because most products marketed as ‘compostable’ or ‘biodegradable’ require special processing – a process that is too expensive and not commonly available. Chances are, your on-the-go coffee cup will wind up in the landfill,” said GaeaStar.

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Two cups with ice drinks and citrus cuts inside of them

GaeaStar, a technology company based in San Francisco and Berlin, developed ultra-thin clay containers as an alternative to single-use plastic. The containers are created through high-speed additive manufacturing (3D printing) and consist of three simple ingredients: clay, water and salt. 

Related: Plant-based coffee pods can be composted in your backyard

A brown bowl next to a pile of dust the same color as the bowl

These containers are geoneutral, meaning they come from natural earth materials and produce zero harmful waste. Users can dispose of the containers in regular trash or even smash them on the ground, as they turn into dust without causing any environmental harm. This eliminates the need for recycling. They can also be washed and reused, and are appropriate for both hot and cold beverages. 

GaeaStar’s containers have gained significant demand and have received $6.5 million in seed funding to expand their presence in the U.S., starting with San Francisco. By drawing inspiration from 5,000-years-old clay cups called “Kuhlars” and combining them with modern technology, GaeaStar offers a solution to the single-use waste problem. 

A cup on a wooden stand

Furthermore, the company aims to provide sustainable food and beverage containers that are not only environmentally friendly but also offer a high-end user experience. Their approach focuses on creating products that originate from the Earth and return to it without contributing to harmful waste in landfills and waterways. The containers look like terracotta, which is more appealing than plastic or paper. Plus, they are stronger than paper and can be customized. The company can print them in different sizes to cater to varying needs. The surface is also printable so the cups can be used as a marketing material for business, especially those interested in environmental messaging.

Three bowls, one large and two small

“With the amount of single-use plastic piling up in our environment increasing, it’s obvious that recycling is not a functioning solution to plastic,” explained Sophie Lamparter, managing partner of DART Labs Ventures. “Sanjeev and his team at GaeaStar have finally presented a realistic way of doing so without the need to drastically change human behavior while making it easy for us all to do our part in creating a future with less waste. Our team is humbled to join this journey and witness GaeaStar transform the market for plastic alternatives.”

+ GaeaStar

Images via GaeaStar