Whenever I try to grab hold of one of those plastic cups at the water cooler, it’s impossible. I mean it’s nigh-on impossible to get just one: about 85% of the time I end up with two or more extracted simultaneously. There is no hygienic way to shove the extras back in the tube from which they’ve just come, of course.
The reason is that these thin, flexible cups are so tightly nested together that air has difficulty flowing in between them when one is being pulled out. This results in a low pressure region between cups that serves to hold them even more tightly together. If you sense this resistance, you are likely to grip the end cup tightly enough to be also holding its internal neighbours and so more than one eventually emerges.
The cost of these cups is only a fraction of a penny each, but we still end up throwing away twice as many as we really need to.
Today’s invention is simply a delivery chute in the form of a gentle curve along the direction in which the cups are fed. The curve has the effect of opening up a gap between adjacent ones and thus allowing air to flow in more freely. One cup at a time can therefore be extracted.
The curved chute could be wrapped around the outer cylindrical surface of the water cooler carbuoy itself, for added stability.