GILBERT (3TV/CBS 5) - There are 250 billion disposable cups used every year across the globe. A Gilbert company is getting worldwide recognition for the way it’s trying to reduce the amount of trash packing our landfills and do away with plastics.

Footprint in Gilbert has a revolutionary new way to make food packaging, and it’s saving the planet.

It all started with a simple cup design, but now the manufacturing company has expanded to meat trays, bowls, and other shapes. All of the revolutionary products are entirely compostable.

“We’re gonna steer the market into a completely different direction,” Footprint spokesman Jeff Bassett said.

It’s all about changing how food is packaged and consumed.

“What we think of as a typical paper cup is, in fact, actually a paper cup with a plastic liner on the inside,” Bassett explained. That means your typical disposable cups pretty much have to end up in the trash bin at the end of life

But Footprint is using fibers from recycled cardboard to make cups, lids, straws, and even six-pack holders.

“This is going to compost within 90 days,” Bassett said about the six-pack holders, which also contain spent grains left over from the brewing process.

Footprint’s production process starts with slurry – broken-down cardboard particles in a watery solution. The slurry fills molds, which are then compressed and run through a vacuum system that sucks the water out.

Finally, the pieces are heated until the remaining moisture is gone.

The end product is a container that is completely recyclable, compostable, and even microwave- and oven-safe.

“We’re able to create a cup that is fully formed three-dimensionally, so there’s (sic) no seams, no points for leakage,” Bassett said.

There’s a big push for greener packaging around the world. A group of major food companies including Starbucks and McDonald’s named Footprint as one of the winners of the "Next Gen Cup Challenge" and will award them up to $1 million to get their ideas out on the market.

“What we envision is the future of a grocery store where, within the next five years, Footprint has actually hit almost every aisle of that grocery store, eliminating plastic,” Bassett said.

He hopes you’ll start seeing some of the containers on store shelves as early as 2021.

Meanwhile, the prototypes rolling off the conveyor belts in Gilbert are headed to food makers around the country so they can try out the revolutionary packaging. Footprint is also in talks with Arizona State University, hoping they can use the campus -- and the 50,000 students there -- as a test site.

As the years go on you can expect to see more and more of Footprint’s footprint, so to speak, no matter what products you consume.

The company's ultimate goal is to completely eliminate single-use plastics.


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