Reusable Coffee Cups from PP #5

After a meeting today a customer wants us to prototype a reusable cup made from recycled PP#5.
Has anyone made this before? Are there any plans we can share/buy to make a suitable mould to prototype the ideas. I assume there are many complications using recycled products when it comes to food-related use?
They are willing to sponsor the development of the mould so please get in touch even if you think you can develop it if nothing exist already.


Following 🙂 Also interested in producing reusable cups & plates for events.

I guess that last word on PP coffee cups sums up well; Good night fellows, pick up your etiquette and dream well.

shorter path is to outsource the whole thing to a company having all the leg work done. sleeping over it; a machine able to run 24/7 to make those cups, coating, certification (3-6 months) is more likely only to be found at special vendors. the price per cup can exceed easily your budget, even a 10K batch might not worth it for them but that’s just ball park guessing. recycled plastic for food consumption in the same sentence is as said rather a bad idea overall. best for you is to open yellow pages and ask them about ‘recycled plastic’. please let us know the outcome.
thanks in advance.

Most important thing is to be able to proof any source you use is beyond suspicion.
Having an ISO9001 just proofs you already are doing this, but the process is the same: be selective in your (trackable) source material, use clean machines (and people) and test, test, test your output (short version).

Easy, no.
Do-able, yes.
Or in one sentence: ‘If it were easy, everybody would be doing it’…

@dhanniga , What I got out of reading the FDA regulations was that the ability to use recycled plastic in food contact was primarily for industrial sources that have a well controlled (ISO9001 etc.) process and a traceable supply chain that does not include general post consumer plastic. I think if a manufacturer has a source of known plastic (production trim, overruns, etc.) and they have an auditable process in place then they can self certify. A local workspace using neighborhood recyclables is not in that category.

Perhaps one option could be, to have an internal part that is new plastic and an exterior that has the cool multi-color recycled part. Kind of like the typical plastic travel mug that fits in the car’s cup holder and we all use so we don’t have to waste time sitting around in a cafe.

requires you to have some coating in place; avoiding more plastic entering your body … ; just thinking my juice cup isn’t from made from clay or similar, no, thanks.

the machine is pretty simple, rack’n pinion or hydraulic (~1.2T)

@frogfall, Thanks for your lengthy opinion. Do you like your coffee black?


There are still some suitable applications for reusable plastic cups, not necessarily just coffee. One use I’m particularly interested in is for large events/festivals where the bars & food vendors offer plastic cups that are circulated, cleaned, reused throughout the event. Plastic is a great option because it does not break when dropped (party proof) & is less expensive than stainless steel.

All great points about possible contaminants. I found useful ‘guidance document’ by the USFDA explaining contamination regulatory guidelines + methodology for testing.

A few recommendations gleaned from the USFDA article:

– Select your feedstock carefully. Using already food-grade PP#5 is a good choice. They make baby bottles from PP#5, so it should be safe, right? Avoid containers that held cleaners, pesticides, automotive chemicals, etc.
– Clean feedstock thoroughly. Cleaning shredded plastic increases surface area available to be cleaned.

-Your workspace should be as clean as a “commercially certified kitchen.” Sterilized machines & surfaces, rodent-free, etc.

@thejiminoz, please wait a few days; i am sure some folks here have something for you.

@frogfall, thanks for pointing out the obvious; I’ve kept scratching my head since long about ‘what the f* happened’ in 1950-2020… other than referencing your last furious – and right on target – article (replacing material …) I’d like to mentioning the problem of the packaging industry (coffee cup isn’t much different). Last weekend we had here ‘San juan’, a well known celebration in the south and I thought let’s watch the show with 200% awareness; beginning with sitting on crap – plastic -, ordering a a few sausages, getting beer served in plastics; stop breathing because of the hundreds of kids burning up fireworks – to the satisfaction – of their parents, being able to consume more crap. After we got fully smoked I was desperately looking for substances, acts … which are not not in violation with the basics of a resource based economy. Arriving home and watching in the trash again didn’t reveal really better (we really try hard). Oh dear, considering 5-20 years passing through this planet to get things done right ….

The problem isn’t how to make a reusable cup. Coffee houses were using perfectly reusable cups in the 17th century.  The cups were made of ceramic, and could be used hundreds (possibly thousands) of times.

Today’s coffee shops also have reusable ceramic mugs (usually stupidly large  – which is another discussion).  But the real problem today is the way that people feel that it is fashionable to walk around caryying a hot drink.

Of course coffee retailers love this – as it enables them to sell overpriced gloopy sweet frothy sewage to people who actually don’t like coffee (the people who do like coffee, drink it strong and black).  Furthermore, the “latte/capucino to go” brigade don’t even take up any space in the shop – so i__t’s pure profit!

To facilitate this, retailers have used the disposable coffee cup – which taints the coffee with either a plasticy or carboardy taste.  However, fashion is a powerful driver – and to walk down the street carrying takeaway coffee must have some kind of metropolitan caché, so taste, and the ability to calmly sit and enjoy a well brewed beverage, are irrelevant.

But people are now being gripped by single-use angst. They feel that it is no longer cool to be seen walking down the street with a disposable cup. They now want to carry a cup emblazoned with the words “biodegradeable” or “reusable” or “turtle friendly”.

The question is, will people actually reuse a “reusable” plastic cup?  To reuse it, they will need to carry it home when covered in congealed milky froth, then wash it to a sufficient level of cleanliness that it doesn’t make the next refill taste even worse than normal, and then they have to remember to carry it with them every time they visit their favourte coffee vendor.  And if vendors offer a discount to people using their own cup, then fashion concious people might feel that it makes them apear like they are short of money…

So should we be encouraging this lifestyle?  Or should we be reviving, and updating, the 17th & 18th century coffee house?

Hi James @thejiminoz

After a meeting today a customer wants us to prototype a reusable cup made from recycled PP#5.

Would this be a specific source of recycled PP#5 ?

Most problems with food safety originate from the fact you have no control over the contermination of your source material. If however the source is known, and you can proof it to be safe, you’ll have less problems.

Also, do you already have a design in mind? (photos might help).
Coffee cups come in all sizes, shapes and forms, so somebody might have a mould, but no way to know if it is what you are looking for!

I would do a quick search on regulations in your country for using recycled plastic for food containers. In the US it sounds pretty restrictive, especially at the small scale. Unfortunately coffee being a hot, slightly acidic liquid is probably more likely to leach out contaminants. Maybe the fact that the coffee is in the cup for a relatively short time helps but getting certification sounds challenging.