GaeaStar, the San Francisco and Berlin-based technology company creating ultra-thin clay containers to break society’s dependency on single-use plastic, has recently debuted its ‘drink to dust’ technology in the United States. Developed via high-speed additive manufacturing, and made of three simple ingredients – clay, water, and salt – the cups and bowls are geoneutral (meaning they come from natural materials of the Earth and leave behind zero harmful waste). Users can discard the containers in the normal trash or smash them on the ground, and they simply turn to dust.
After generating over a million unit orders and even more product demand from its debut in Germany, GaeaStar has raised $6.5M in seed funding from Morningside Technology Ventures, at.inc/, Dart Labs Ventures, Sand Hill Angels, VSC Ventures, and Climate Capital Ventures to bring its products to the United States – starting in San Francisco.
According to GaeaStar, in 2021 alone, humans generated over 40 million metric tons of plastic, yet only 9% of all plastic ever made has been recycled. With GaeaStar, recycling is rendered obsolete.
Inspired by 5,000-year-old clay cups known as ‘Kuhlars’, GaeaStar presents a modern-day twist on the ancient Indian tradition of drinking from disposable clay cups that can be tossed – or smashed – on the ground without environmental harm. By combining this cultural practice with 21st-century technology, the company has created a viable fix for our single-use waste problem.
“Although many sustainable food and beverage containers are in the market, finding ones that are also exceptional products overall is a challenge. Our technology finally offers a solution that meets the convenience of being disposable without causing harm to the Earth while giving users a high-end experience,” said Sanjeev Mankotia, Founder and CEO of GaeaStar. “It’s all based on the premise that the answer to ditching plastic is to create something that comes from and returns to the Earth in essentially the same form. Ultimately, we have the potential to scale our technology for generations to come without adding more harmful waste to our landfills and waterways.”
Unlike soggy paper straws or chemical-ridden plastic packaging, GaeaStar’s clay containers are ultra-thin yet 10x stronger than paper cups, and offer an elevated on-the-go dining experience. The sourcing of the raw materials and delivery of the product is all done locally via a micro-factory model to limit the environmental footprint from start to finish.
Landing somewhere between single-use and reusable containers, these vessels can be taken home and safely used dozens of times – with proper care – while still having impact- and guilt-free disposability.
Each container can be printed in an average of 30 seconds and, at scale, is cost comparable to single-use incumbents so businesses can move towards their sustainability goals cost-effectively. For now, GaeaStar’s products come in the form of branded on-the-go cups for a coffee shop or juice bar, welcome drinks at a hotel lobby, and trendy ice cream containers as seen at Berlin ice cream manufacturers ‘Rosa Canina’ and ‘Eisweiler’.
“With the amount of single-use plastic piling up in our environment increasing, it’s obvious that recycling is not a functioning solution to plastic. Sanjeev and his team at GaeaStar have finally presented a realistic way of doing so without the need to drastically change human behavior while making it easy for us all to do our part in creating a future with less waste. Our team is humbled to join this journey and witness GaeaStar transform the market for plastic alternatives,” said Sophie Lamparter, Managing Partner of DART Labs Ventures.
Start with coffee
GaeaStar will begin distributing its coffee cups in the US through a pilot with California-based Verve Coffee Roasters. The collaboration will give Verve customers – at select cafes – a more eco-friendly option when ordering particular food and beverages, and will allow GaeaStar to fine-tune its original container prototype to meet the needs of Verve and other US businesses.
“Our mission is to, not only craft the future of coffee but, to protect its future – and that means being more intentional and sustainable with everything we do. Our customers are mindful about how their choices impact the planet and we think they’ll be thrilled about this more eco-friendly swap to enjoy their daily cup,” said Colby Barr, co-founder of Verve Coffee Roasters. “We’re honored by the opportunity to work with GaeaStar to help pioneer a more sustainable solution while maintaining the high-quality experience we seek to deliver with every customer interaction.”