Rivals McDonald’s and Starbucks Collaborate on Sustainable Cups

by | Jul 23, 2018

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sustainable cups

McDonald’s announced that the company has joined Starbucks in the NextGen Cup Consortium and Challenge. The rivals are now founding members of a group convened by Closed Loop Partners to develop sustainable cups for foodservice.

In March, Starbucks invested in the Closed Loop Partners’ Center for the Circular Economy to create the NextGen Cup Challenge, an industry consortium for developing fully recyclable and compostable cups. Recently McDonald’s signed on with $5 million, bringing the total funds dedicated to the Challenge to $10 million, according to the two companies.

The Center for the Circular Economy estimates the foodservice industry produces 600 billion paper and plastic cups globally that end up in landfills every year. NextGen, the founders say, builds on years of work in the industry and will be a critical step for developing an end-to-end cup solution.

Currently NextGen is building an advisory council that includes leaders in environmental NGOs including WWF, human-centered design, academic leaders, the paper and plastic industry, recyclers, composters, and municipalities. This will help ensure that the work is grounded in the needs of the full value chain, and that the sustainable cups go from shelf to consumer and back through the recovery system to another high-value use, according to the founding members.

The NextGen Cup Challenge invites innovators, entrepreneurs, industry experts, and recyclers to submit ideas for the next generation of cups that are recyclable or compostable, or both, starting in September.

Awardees will receive acceleration funding up to $1 million based on key milestones, the consortium notes. After that, up to seven awardees will enter a six-month accelerator program to help scale their solutions.

“In our experience investing in circular economy innovation, we find the most successful path to scaling a systems-changing solution is to bring together key players along the entire value chain in a pre-competitive collaboration,” said Kate Daly, executive director of the Center for the Circular Economy at Closed Loop Partners. “This is the type of partnership we need to foster innovative solutions without sacrificing profit.”

She added that, to date, the center has received more than 1,000 inquiries from companies and individuals interested in participating in the challenge.

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