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Friday, July 30, 2010

Post # 133 - My Letter to Dart To Fix Their Horrible Spill-Prone Styrofoam Cup Design - 3/27/2010

It's happened to all of us.  Styofoam cup, shaky folding table, inevitable spill.  The story below happened today at my daughter's First Communion Retreat.  My son's is a year from now.  Wouldn't it be cool if I had a spill-proof cup of coffee?

Cups need to be top heavy for packaging reasons.  Or do they?

I spent a half hour on this.  It can surely be improved.  It may not even be practical.  If it gets them thinking about it, then I'm happy.
Dear Dart,

I have about had it with your cups. They are everywhere. Courtrooms, picnics, office settings, church basements. Your cups are top heavy and very prone to spills. Toss in a flimsy card table and some eight year olds, and you have spills waiting to happen.

Today I was at a retreat for my daughter’s First Communion. I had a manila folder on a folding table in the church recreation room. I left a cup of coffee in an 8 ounce non-biodegradable, non-recyclable Dart Styrofoam cup. I was gone 30 seconds to snag a doughnut. Upon my return, your cup was sideways. My coffee and my manila folder met. Jessica’s baptism certificate, picture application, and two photos were destroyed.

Why were they destroyed? Because your cups need to be top-heavy in order to store them. Think of all of the days that have been ruined by your design. Photos, legal documents, Jonesville attendees, contracts, dresses, ties, trousers, rugs, power strips. All because we collectively decided to settle.

We need to redesign this thing ASAP. I have two ideas. One practical, and one less-than-practical. The first is adding a kickstand to the side of your cup. It would clip on the side and add stability. It’s a dumb idea. I’m only throwing it out there so you’ll look at the second idea and say “wow—that’s much better!”

The second idea is based off of the paper bag design. This design would use a sturdier material though—either cardboard stock or thin (recyclable) plastic. The plastic that I’m thinking of is used for some gift bags. You unfold the bag, and on the side with the bend, there would be a channel, through which the user would slide the attached “rod”. The rod is nothing more than a small section of toothpick, plastic, or sucker stick. This reinforcement could be on one or two sides. I have an illustration for you (attached).

I have a diagram that illustrates it better. My idea may cost a little more per cup, and require an additional step by Joe Public. However, the benefits are customer satisfaction (a lot less spills), better packaging (ship more product in less space), and recyclable.

Regardless of whether my idea is feasible, sensible, or practical for you, I’m a layman in the single use container industry. I just redesigned your cup in like 25 minutes. You should be able to put together some proposals to solve this problem in no time.

What say you?



P.S. – I see you’re based in Michigan. Me too.
Subject: Dart 8 oz Foam Cups

Date: Wed, 31 Mar 2010 14:58:17 -0400

Dear Jerry:

Thank you for your March 28 email providing us with your comments and feedback on our 8 oz foam cups. We appreciate your interest in the design of foam cups.

For those customers who require a higher level of vertical stability, we do offer a more squat cup configuration in our foam cup models 6J8,10J12, and 12J16. For more information on these squat-configured foam cups visit our web site at Click on the products tab, click on the US map,
and then click on foodservice foam cups, containers, and lids.

To submit any new product ideas to Dart, please note the following:

In order for Dart to review any product idea, we require the submitter to sign the attached Disclosure Policy Form. Please review this form, and if you are willing to comply with the terms,  and return it to us. You should also include any drawings, descriptions, or related materials that you would like us to review.

(See attached file: Disclosure Policy Form 2010.pdf)

Please send the completed disclosure form to the following address:

Dart Container Corporation
Attn: Marcus Braman, Marketing Department
500 Hogsback Road
Mason, MI 48854
Additionally, in your email, you mentioned that Dart foam cups are "non-recyclable". We would like you to know that Dart foam cups are recyclable. To learn more about the recycling of foam cups, please visit our web-site and click on "Information About Recycling Foam Cups". You will find a number of drop-off locatons in our Michigan County Recycling program. We trust there is one near you.


Bob W.

My response, dated 4/1/2010:
Dear Bob,

Thank you for the invitation to submit my idea. I will do so. Thanks also for the information about your squatter cups.

You mentioned that foam cups can be recycled. I was not aware of this. Thank you for enlightening me. Everything I have ever read focuses on the carcinogens, the ozone melting, and the oil required to produce polystyrene. It’s all about bound-up otters in the Pacific Northwest, and Tommy’s polluted drinking water in Dallas, Texas.

You caused me to do more research. I read where about twelve percent of all polystyrene is indeed recycled. They shred it, soak it in acetone, and mold the shredded material into items like trays and cups.

This still means that about 88 percent of the polystyrene that you’re producing is ending up in a landfill, an otter’s lower tract, or Tommy’s drinking water. I know from reading your legal forms, you can’t comment on pending ideas. I’m hoping one of these is “let’s get out of pumping this crap into the environment”.


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  1. Jerry, I liked the part where you have a first idea, and then a second idea for them to say "wow" to. You really gave this a lot of thought. Very innovative and out of the box. Your employer must love you. And I am not being sarcastic.

  2. Thanks Shondira. I don't get to innovate that much on the job. So far though, they like me, knock on wood.

  3. Great idea....let me guess you where inspired one night eating take out Chinese food?
    My two cents....Americans dont care about green design until it becomes a debated issue and then only if someone else is watching. Even though a better solution if it less convenience which means every thing to Americans ie....the MP3 over the CD....the CD over the phonograph record...ok vinyl(if you where born in 1990 or later). We take ease over quality, its a proven fact.

  4. You're right. I was laughing when typed it because I was picturing people walking around drinking from those containers.

    I agree about the convenience aspect. I hate styrofoam. I hate the way it feels. I hate those peanut things. I hate the squeak noise if you have one of those coolers in your back seat. I hate everything about it.

  5. I love this letter. I also hate styrofoam,and it drives me crazy when my kids drink out of them. Megs always bites off a piece and spits it out in the drink. She says she can't help it because the the texture of the foam compels her to do it.