Story at a glance

  • “Paper” cups often contain plastic to make them water resistant.
  • This means many products that are mostly paper still contribute to global plastic pollution.
  • But a new product uses pineapple leaves to create cups and packaging that are water resistant and biodegradable.

Most paper cups actually contain plastic to keep them from getting soggy. This might make them better at holding water but it also means they break down slowly and contribute to the tsunami of plastic polluting the planet. But a new cup designed in the Philippines uses pineapple leaves to keep plastics out of paper cups, Vice reports.

The materials scientists who created the cup are calling it “Pinyapel” — a mashup of the Filipino word for pineapple, “pinya,” and paper, “papel.” What sets the cup apart isn’t just its elimination of plastic, it also doesn’t require cutting down any trees and reduces agricultural waste. 

The innovative use of materials earned the pineapple leaf cup a win at the D&AD Future Impact Awards — an annual event that recognizes forward-looking projects with potential to make a difference.

The pineapple paper can also be fashioned into water-resistant bags and sheets. The water resistance makes them a candidate for compostable food packaging. According to tests run by the Design Center of the Philippines (DCP), Pinyapel decomposed faster than standard paper bags. In four weeks the Pinyapel products were 55.32 percent gone, while normal paper bags were only 21.33 percent decomposed.

The leaves used in the paper are sourced from Nature’s Fresh, a major pineapple supplier. These leaves are typically discarded, which makes them cheap but also helps the farms make extra money while reducing waste.

“The ambition of the Pinyapel is to replace the takeaway/take-out food containers and have Pinyapel be part of the compost bin that can be used to re-fertilize the soil and make it richer, so instead of traditional linear economy of taking out from the earth, we are able to give back to the earth and make it richer and healthier, making [us] responsible stewards of the earth for future generations,” DCP Executive Director Maria Rita O. Matute told VICE.

Humans have polluted nearly every corner of the planet with plastics, and much of that plastic comes from the very packaging products Pinyapel has the potential to replace.

Published on Nov 21, 2019