How do you have your (take-away) coffee, tea or hot chocolate (in the morning)? Do you have a reusable cup at work or that you bring with you when you go to a coffee shop? Or do you go with the disposable cups your barista offers – because you always forget to bring your reusable one or it’s just not convenient (or your handbag not big enough) to carry a cup around with you?
If the latter is you, we might have good news for you: Our article today looks into the pros and cons of reusable cups that are collapsible, and the HUNU Cup in particular. Barely larger than a powder case or wallet, they fit in any handbag or jacket pocket.
Why should you avoid single-use/disposable cups?
According to Sustainability Australia, Australians throw out one billion single-use or disposable coffee cups every year. New Zealand is no stranger to the throwaway culture either. Alice Neville from The Spinoff puts the number at 295 million per year. And depending on which blog, news media or organisation you read, watch or listen to, Americans use at least 50 billion disposable coffee cups each year.
While disposable cups are designed to only be used once, a lot of energy goes into creating them. The shipment of disposable cups adds to the emission of CO2 and other gases. Made from virgin paper also means thousands of trees are cut down to manufacture all these cups every year. What a waste…
Thankfully, the bad old styrofoam cups have been largely replaced (we only encountered them when travelling around the US). But paper disposable cups are not environmentally friendly either. Paper cups have a plastic liner (as paper can’t hold liquids) and can thus not be recycled. Even compostable cups require suitable composting facilities (which don’t always exist in or near the places where they are sold).
Single-use cups (whether paper or otherwise) are clogging up our landfills, waterways and oceans. We need to stop the practice of using disposable cups, in the same way, we refuse plastic grocery bags, plastic straws or disposable take-away containers. Period.
A better solution? Take a break and enjoy your hot drink sitting down at the coffee shop, sipping from a cup that’s washed after use, ready for the next customer. Or if you’re really short on time, bring your own (reusable) cup – whether porcelain, stainless steel, silicone or otherwise. And if they’re just too clunky, heavy or fragile to carry around, why not try a HUNU Cup?
What is a HUNU Cup?
A HUNU Cup is a reusable cup that’s collapsible. These days, a lot of things are collapsible to reduce the volume they take up when stored: think of collapsible Tupperware containers, collapsible measuring cups or the collapsible tub you may use on camping trips. Well, the same principle has been applied to a reusable cup. When collapsed, the HUNU Cup is only 2cm/0.75in high.
The cup comes in one size only: 265ml or 9fl oz – perfectly fine when you order a Short (8fl oz) at a Starbucks (not that we support that) but too small if you were after a Tall (12fl oz) or larger.
Current color options are charcoal, sage green, warm grey and pastel pink. The different colors make it easy to identify which cup is whose if several members of your household use a HUNU Cup.
The HUNU Cup was designed in London and is manufactured in China. Vince Dickson and Megan Williams from Islington, United Kingdom started We are HUNU in order to create beautiful yet functional products that help tackle single-use plastic waste.
What is the HUNU Cup made of?
The complete product is made up of four distinct parts: the cup, a lid, an insulating strap and a drinking hole plug (which doubles as a logo).
Made from food-grade silicone, the cup is petroleum-free. It is highly resistant to damage and degradation from extreme temperatures. It won’t harden, crack, peel, crumble, dry out, rot or become brittle over time. And being made of food-grade silicone, the HUNU Cups are non-toxic and BPA Free.
The lid is produced from bamboo fiber and resin. Used to wrap the cup north to south when collapsed, the strap doubles as an insulating band going east to west when you have a hot drink. The material of the insulating strap and the logo/drinking hole plug is not specified.
How sustainable is the HUNU Cup?
The HUNU Cup is made from an abundant natural resource – silicon – which is in effect sand or quartz. However, silicone is a synthetic polymer that is made using petroleum or natural gas.
Food-grade silicone has amazing properties that ensure that the product will last a long time. As such, silicone is more environmentally friendly than plastic due to its longevity and its lower chance of leaching chemicals into food.
When the cup is no longer fit for purpose, it can be repurposed and even recycled (not easily though). Don’t try to put it into your kerbside recycling, however. ECO USA is the only silicone recycling plant in the USA, and they currently don’t recycle post-consumer silicone. We couldn’t find any silicone recycling facilities in New Zealand or Australia.
If you buy one look after your HUNU Cup to ensure it has a long lifespan. And do your best to re-purpose it once you can no longer use it.
Our experience with the HUNU Cup
HUNU Cup - A Reusable Collapsible Cup
Taking the cup out of its recyclable packaging was the first indicator that some real thought had been put into the product.
I had difficulties putting the lid firmly on my first hot drink for fear of spilling it everywhere. That said, I personally prefer to drink without a lid anyway. The cup does come with instructions in six languages (English, French, German, Italian, Portuguese and Spanish). And it certainly pays to read them carefully (and practice with some cold water) before you use the cup for the first time.
Be aware that the lid and the insulation band are not microwave-safe. So if your drink has gone cold on your way back from the coffee shop and you want to warm it up, you’ll have to remove both before placing the cup in the microwave. Don’t worry: assuming the cup is not filled to the rim you won’t burn your fingers taking it back out.
One of the biggest selling points for me is the collapsible nature of the cup and to that degree, it is perfect. It couldn’t go any flatter without losing rigidity when expanded.
At just under 9.5cm diameter, the HUNU Cup fits nicely into a handbag or jacket pocket. The outside of the cup is non-slippery, and the cup fits nicely in my hand.
Contrary to single-use cups, the HUNU Cup has no air hole in the lid (only a drinking hole). The lid fits tight and there was no spilling when I drank.
The drinking hole plug does a good job holding the insulating strap in place when the cup is not in use. This also means: if there were any residual drops of coffee in your cup after use none of it would spill into your handbag or jacket pocket.
The cup is made from food-grade silicone and the lid from bamboo fiber and resin. Its material appears to be sturdy. The insulating strap looks like the weakest part of the cup, but you can extend its lifespan by not placing it in a dishwasher or microwave. If a part does break consumers can contact We are HUNU via email or Instagram for a replacement.
We deducted a few points because the company could not provide proof of the FDA and LFGB certification when requested.
The cup retains heat as well as any normal porcelain cup.
The price of the HUNU Cup is comparable with other similar reusable cups on the market. You pay for what you get, and with FDA AND LFGB certification, it is a slightly more premium product than those with only FDA certification.
The HUNU Cup is made in China and then shipped to warehouses in the United Kingdom and the US, therefore necessitating two trips to get from the factory to the consumer, potentially three if the cup is sold through a third party.
When asked how the company enforced good ethical and sustainable environmental practices in its supply chain, We Are Hunu stated “that they work very closely with their factories and manufacturing to ensure everything is happening ethically”.
Not a very reassuring or transparent response in our view, we (again) deducted points for the lack of transparency. That said, We Are Hunu stated that they are working on a company sustainability statement, expected to be released in September 2021.
- Light-weight (168g)
- Small enough for any pocket or bag
- Cup is microwave and dishwasher safe
- Product is leak-proof when the lid is properly fitted (and if the drinking hole is plugged when collapsed)
- Cup fits easily under an espresso machine and into a car cup holder
- Packaging is plastic-free and made from recycled materials
- The lid and insulation strap are not microwave-safe
- The lid is a little difficult to fit and remove (and special care needs to be taken when the cup is full of hot liquid)
- Lid has no air hole to help with the flow of liquid
HUNU Cup FAQs
Is the HUNU Cup microwave and dishwasher safe?
The cup and lid are both dishwasher-safe. The cup (without the lid and insulation band) is also microwave-safe.
What material standards does the HUNU Cup comply with?
According to We Are HUNU, the cup is both FDA (Food and Drug Agency) and LFBG (short for Lebensmittel- und Futtermittelgesetzbuch or Food and Commodities Act) certified, meaning that it meets the highest world standards for food safety.
LFGB is often considered the European equivalent of the FDA, but this is not actually correct. The LFGB is the German enactment of European law as operated by the Bundesinstitut für Risikobewertung (BfR). The BfR recommendations for food-contact materials are some of the most comprehensive in the EU. Pricing-wise, products certified to LFGB standard are more expensive (as testing is more comprehensive and strict) than those that are FDA certified. FDA certification is therefore more widely used.
We Are HUNU were unable to provide documentary proof of the certification when requested, so we have to take their word that the product is certified.
How do you clean the HUNU Cup?
If you are at a café, just wipe the insides with a napkin (or if you happen to go to the bathroom simply rinse it out with water). When you return home, wash it with hot soapy water. If you use a dishwasher remove the insulating band first.
Where can I buy a HUNU Cup?
The HUNU Cup can be purchased from the We are HUNU website, Amazon or selected online retailers and physical stores around the world. Be aware that the cup is manufactured in China and then shipped to warehouses in the US and the United Kingdom before it is forwarded to consumers.