Home / Past Competitions / 2021 / Bio-Cone


School:University of Florida
Team:Kelsea Potthast, Spencer Serrano, Joe Wilson, Michelle Clayton

In alignment with Hi-Cone’s sustainability vision, the Bio-Cone offers an
engineered solution to the global plastic pollution crisis. The design of the Bio-Cone was
guided by three goals: reduce the carbon footprint of the product, mitigate
environmental impacts in marine and coastal ecosystems, and ensure sustainability
throughout the lifetime of the product. Additionally, the versatility of the current Hi-Cone
product informed design decisions and justifications. The Bio-Cone prototype ideally
contributes to current efforts to reimagine resource usage and waste in our society.

A compostable plastic, derived from 100 percent vegetable starches, was chosen
as the design material. The plastic is manufactured by Crown Poly and used to make
vegetable bags for supermarkets. During design conversation, it was decided that the
Bio-Cone should be suitable for high-speed application and compatible across multiple
beverage brands. The starch-based polymer enables the redesigned ring carrier to
achieve sustainability initiatives without sacrificing the industrial identity of the original
product. The compostable plastic eliminates the need to recycle the Bio-Cone as its life
cycle is ended after the material degrades.

The Bio-Cone is made of a bioplastic that is up to ASTM D5338 specifications.
While the standard for determining the aerobic biodegradation of plastic under
composting conditions is intended for industrial composting facilities, it is also applicable
to home composting. Under the tests outlined in the specifications, it was determined
that the vegetable-based plastic degrades in under 180 days at both levels. Additionally,
it holds Vincotte OK Home Compost Certification.

Plastic ring carriers hold a negative image in the eyes of the environmentally
conscious public. While this reputation may be somewhat deserved, ring carriers
account for less than 0.1% of litter and 0.2 percent of animal entanglements. Improving
public perception of multi- packing beverage products was contemplated during product
development. Inspired by a recent movement in the paperboard industry, flower seeds
will be enclosed within the Bio-Cone. The selected flower species produce seeds with
small diameters that will be sealed between the plastic layers. After the product has
been used and discarded into a compost system by the consumer, the polymer will
begin to degrade and release a formulated mix of wildflower seeds. The resulting
compost and flower seed mixture will be ready for delivery to gardens or fields. The
intention is to shift association away from marine life entanglements and towards
beautification of spaces. Hopefully, the flowers will attract wild life and establish a
constructive relationship between the Bio-Cone and the natural world.

The Bio-Cone offers the same functionality of its predecessor while
simultaneously achieving sustainability benchmarks and improving public image. It shall
set a standard for future bioplastic and seed integration, to reduce the environmental
impact of the packaging industry. Ultimately, the redesign was motivated by an effort to
improve our society and care for the planet.