GaeaStar: Pioneering a Sustainable Future with Disposable Clay Cups

Updated Nov 26, 2023 • Amélie Bigras

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The escalating problem of single-use plastic and paper cups has been a growing concern for environmentalists worldwide. These cups, often lined with plastic and designed for a single use, contribute significantly to landfill waste and pose a severe threat to our planet. Enter GaeaStar, a San Francisco-based startup on a mission to revolutionize the way we consume beverages.

The GaeaStar Solution

GaeaStar has introduced an innovative solution to the single-use cup problem: 3D-printed terracotta cups, bowls, and plates. These products, composed entirely of clay, water, and salt, are designed to crumble into dust when forcibly crushed, reintegrating into soil anywhere. Unlike plastic or paper cups, which require timber, acids, bleach, fillers, plastic lining, ink, recycling, and take up to 100 years to break down, GaeaStar's clay cups require none. The company describes its products as "geo-neutral," meaning they do not interfere with the composting process, offering a truly eco-friendly alternative.

Broken clay to be recycled into new cups

The GaeaStar Story

The brainchild of founder and CEO Sanjeev Mankotia, GaeaStar, was born out of a desire to create a sustainable solution to the single-use cup problem. A trained mechanical engineer with experience in the bicycle and automotive industries, Mankotia was inspired by Indian street vendors who sell chai tea in clay cups called kulhads. He founded GaeaStar in 2021, and since then, a Berlin-based team of engineers has led product development.

GaeaStar's Innovations

GaeaStar's unique approach combines traditional craftsmanship with additive manufacturing techniques. The company's innovation lies in its materials and manufacturing equipment recipe, creating cups of eggshell thinness that can withstand hot and cold liquids. The glazed terracotta interior is designed to maintain no odors or stains, offering a fine china experience with the convenience of disability.

GaeaStar's Clay Cup Production:

  • Does not use timber, preserving natural resources.
  • Does not employ acids for pulp digestion, reducing chemical usage.
  • Does not utilize bleach, avoiding the introduction of harmful chemicals.
  • Does not incorporate fillers, reducing waste.
  • Does not require plastic for lining, reducing plastic pollution.
  • Does not use ink for branding, reducing environmental impact.
  • Does not require recycling, as the cups crumble into dust and reintegrate into the soil, saving energy and resources.

GaeaStar's Pilot Programs and Partnerships

GaeaStar's products are currently produced at a single facility in Germany and used by local catering companies and dozens of ice cream shops around Berlin. The company is also delivering cups to prospective partners in the United States, including its first official U.S. pilot partner, Santa Cruz, California-based Verve Coffee Roasters. GaeaStar's long-term goal is to adapt its manufacturing equipment into appliances that customers can install and use in-house, utilizing clay from local sources.

Cups and bowls made out of clay in different shapes

GaeaStar's Vision for the Future

GaeaStar envisions a future where cups can be printed in under 10 seconds for less than 10 cents apiece, presenting a more practical alternative to existing pre-manufactured single-use cups. The company's ongoing product development tasks include formulating an espresso-sized cup, devising a spill-resistant lid solution, and improving insulation for extra-hot drinks.

In essence, GaeaStar's vision for the future is one where sustainability is seamlessly integrated into everyday life. Through their innovative products and practices, they aim to make this vision a reality, leading the way towards a more sustainable future.

The Impact of GaeaStar's Products

GaeaStar's products are a game-changer in the fight against single-use plastics. By offering a sustainable, locally produced alternative, GaeaStar is lowering the true cost for companies, people, and the planet. Their products are made from the earth and return to the earth without causing any harm, eliminating the need for recycling entirely.

The impact of GaeaStar's clay cups extends beyond their biodegradable nature. The manufacturing process, which involves 3D printing, is significantly less harmful to the environment than the production of plastic or paper cups. Traditional cup production involves the use of timber, acids for pulp digestion, bleach for whitening, fillers, plastic for lining, ink for branding, and requires recycling. These processes not only consume vast amounts of resources but also contribute to pollution and waste. In contrast, GaeaStar's clay cups require none of these, making their production process much more eco-friendly.

Moreover, GaeaStar's cups crumble into dust when forcibly crushed, reintegrating into the soil anywhere. This feature not only eliminates the need for recycling but also contributes to soil health, promoting a more sustainable ecosystem.

The company's commitment to local production also reduces the carbon footprint associated with transporting goods over long distances. By sourcing clay from local areas and producing the cups in-house, GaeaStar minimizes the environmental impact of transportation. This local focus also supports local economies and promotes sustainable practices within communities.

GaeaStar's products also have the potential to influence consumer behavior towards more sustainable choices. By offering a high-quality, reusable alternative to single-use cups, GaeaStar encourages consumers to rethink their consumption habits and make more environmentally friendly choices.


GaeaStar is a shining example of how innovation and sustainability can go hand in hand. Their mission to ditch plastic for good is a testament to their commitment to creating a better future for our planet. As consumers, we can support this mission by choosing sustainable alternatives like GaeaStar. After all, convenience doesn't have to destroy our planet. With GaeaStar, we can enjoy our daily cup of coffee or tea, knowing we're contributing to a more sustainable world.

Meet the expert

Amélie has a dual Bachelor of Biological Sciences and Literature. She wrote a Master's Thesis on the importance of blending scientific knowledge with the arts to create a healthier culture. She also has a Bachelor of Education and has been teaching Biology and Language Arts since 2016. She is happily addicted to coffee and constantly learning.

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