biodegradable coffee cup that grows into tree
Maria Sykes
Maria Sykes
March 6, 2024 ·  3 min read

What Happened to the Biodegradable Coffee Cups That Grow Into Trees When Thrown Away?

A few years ago, The Hearty Soul shared an exciting story about a company crowdfunding to create biodegradable coffee cups which would plant trees when tossed.

According to the company’s website, the “World’s First Plantable Coffee Cup” is going to be made out of a “renewable resourced paper medium” and will have a specific type of plant seeds embedded into it. In theory, the paper would naturally break down into soil while the seeds in the paper will grow into trees. The cup would have the state that the seeds originate from designed on it, and will also provide information on the type of seed mixed used as well as planting instructions.

It took barely over a month for 569 people to pledge $21,077 to see the project known as Reduce.Reuse.Grow to come to fruition- over $11,000 more than the original project goal.

Since closing the crowdfunding request, the creators sent a series of five private updates to those donated, leaving many others wondering what ever happened to that brilliant idea?

Today, the team that dreamed of plantable coffee cups is taking on big challenges with more elegant and large-scale solutions. Known as Restoration Packaging, they have evolved into “a one-for-one compostable and recyclable packaging company, planting a plant with each product served.”

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For every renewably sourced and compostable cup, plate, bowl, tray, cutlery set, napkin, and bag they sell, they plant a tree. Each disposable product takes between two to four months to completely biodegrade in a commercial compost.

Restoration Packaging hopes to influence the foodservice industry in a big way, and has already partnered with 7Eleven to bring their sustainable packaging to the masses.

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“With each product served, we plant a plant at a local restoration site.  We have built an extensive network of restoration professionals and sites in order to achieve high success rates of efficient and cost effective plantings that have high positive impacts on the communities we work within.  We believe this should be the new norm for disposable packaging products.  Not only are they environmentally friendly, sourcing the most sustainable renewable materials, but they also give back to the communities in which they are served within,” their website states.

Related: You Actually Use 32,911 Glasses of Water Per Day (and The Scary Thing That Means)

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So while the clever-sounding idea that originally got people excited about renewing forests, reducing pollution, and improving sustainability in the food industry did fizzle out, we’re left with something even more efficient and powerful. Every one of these biodegradable coffee cups is still equal to a new plant … and as of today, Restoration Packaging has planted over 8 million of them and counting in Western USA and Canada.

To date, seedlings have been planted to restore wildlife at the following locations after fires devastated them:

  • Boulder, Colorado
  • Los Angeles, California
  • Santa Barbara, California
  • San Luis Obispo, California
  • Vancouver Island, British Columbia
  • Fort McMurray, Alberta
  • Caribou Boreal Habitat in Manitoba
  • Ontario Boreal Reserve
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