Starbucks, McDonald’s and other industry leaders partner in pre-competitive collaboration to push the boundaries of sustainable design and find innovative cup solutions.
The NextGen Consortium, convened by Closed Loop Partners, announced today the winners of the NextGen Cup Challenge – an open-sourced, global innovation challenge to redesign the fiber to-go cup and create a widely recyclable and/or compostable cup.
After a rigorous four-month review process by an esteemed group of judges including NextGen Consortium business leaders, as well as experts in recycling, composting and packaging, the Challenge narrowed the nearly 500 submissions from over 50 countries down to 12 winners.
These 12 winning solutions — broadly categorized into innovative cup liners, new materials, and reusable cup service models — have the potential to turn the 250 billion fiber to-go cups used annually from waste into a valuable material in the recycling system.
“This is a notable milestone to achieve our aspiration of sustainable coffee, served sustainably which is a particular passion for our over 350,000 Starbucks partners,” said John Kelly, Senior Vice President of Global Public Affairs and Social Impact at Starbucks. “We’re a founding partner of the NextGen Consortium because we believe it will take the scale and influence of many global companies to make recyclable, compostable to-go cups an industry standard rather than the exception.”
Many of the largest players in the food and beverage industry have united within the NextGen Consortium, making it a unique pre-competitive collaboration. Starbucks and McDonald’s were early investors and founding partners of the NextGen Consortium, with The Coca-Cola Company, Yum! Brands, Nestlé and Wendy’s joining as supporting partners. The World Wildlife Fund acts as an advisory member of the Consortium, and OpenIDEO is an innovation partner. Collectively representing a significant portion of the cups market, these brands are not only demonstrating their commitment to ending cup waste and driving innovation in packaging, but also accelerating the paths to global scale.
“McDonald’s is proud to work with such an unprecedented number of brands to address the issue of fiber to-go cups,” said Marion Gross, Senior Vice President and Chief Supply Chain Officer, McDonald’s USA. “Collaboration is what we need to truly move the needle, amplify impact and bring solutions to scale quickly.”
The NextGen Challenge winner solutions are advancing the transition to a more circular economy where materials are continuously cycled and reliance on raw materials is reduced. “By working across the entire value chain and engaging key stakeholders, winners of the NextGen Cup Challenge are tackling a complex problem in a holistic way, sending valuable material back into the supply chain – benefiting people, the planet, and businesses,” said Erin Simon, Director, Sustainability R&D, World Wildlife Fund.
Up to six winners will enter the NextGen Circular Business Accelerator, where they’ll gain access to a network of experts, business and technical resources and testing opportunities to ensure these innovations can successfully scale to serve the needs of the industry and maintain the performance standards we know and trust.
The Challenge is just the first stage of the NextGen Consortium’s three-year effort. Next, the NextGen Circular Business Accelerator, with testing and piloting opportunities, will help solutions get onto the shelf. Further, the Consortium is working with suppliers, recyclers and composters to ensure that the winning solutions can get successfully recovered for the highest value. The Consortium will work together to support the needs of the recycling and composting system and identify ways to make it easy for consumers to choose the right bin.
“The level of interest we saw in the Challenge demonstrates a real appetite for long-lasting sustainable packaging solutions,” said Kate Daly, Executive Director of the Center for the Circular Economy at Closed Loop Partners. “This level of industry collaboration in support of the NextGen Cup Challenge is really exciting, and we look forward to building on this momentum to encourage more innovative solutions. Fully recoverable fiber to-go cups are just the beginning.”
The 12 Winners of the Challenge
Category One: Innovative Cup Liners
These companies are rethinking the polyethylene plastic liners in cups that can currently make to-go cups difficult to recycle.
- C.E.E.R. SCHISLER, France, creates a 100% paper cup that is home compostable and recyclable.
- Colombier Group, Netherlands, Finland, creates a recyclable and compostable barrier for paperboard cups.
- Footprint US, USA, creates cups, lids and straws that are fully formed fiber-based solutions, with an aqueous-based coating that is recyclable and compostable.
- Kotkamills Oy, Finland, creates plastic-free, recyclable and compostable cupstock material that can be processed into cups at existing cup making machines.
- PTT MCC Biochem Company Limited, Thailand, creates a coated paper cup that is recyclable and home compostable.
- Solenis LLC, USA, Belgium, creates a barrier coating that is recyclable and compostable.
- Sun Chemical Corporation, USA, creates inks and coatings that are recyclable and compostable.
- WestRock Corporation, USA, creates a recyclable and compostable paperboard solution to cups.
Category Two: New Materials
These companies are using cutting edge, plant-based materials in their cups so that they are compostable.
- Solublue Ltd., UK, creates plant-based, food grade and non-toxic products that biodegrade after use.
Category Three: Reusable Cup Service Models
The cups made by these companies aren’t single-use, they just keep cycling – remaining in service by harnessing the power of technology and design.
- CupClub, UK, operates a returnable cup ecosystem, providing a service for drinks. Think bike sharing, but for cups.
- reCup GmbH, Germany, operates a deposit system for reusable cups. Rent their cup and return it to any participating partner shop. No cleaning of the cup or carrying around required.
- Revolv, Indonesia, Hong Kong (China), operates a deposit-based platform for smart, reusable beverage packaging, connecting their cups–and third party products–to Internet of Things technologies.
Each year, an estimated 250 billion fiber to-go cups are distributed worldwide. Most of these are not recyclable or compostable. The NextGen Cup Consortium and Challenge launched in 2018 to bring together entrepreneurs, industry, and recyclers to identify and commercialize the next generation of recyclable and/or compostable cups. Closed Loop Partners, Starbucks, McDonald’s, The Coca-Cola Company, Yum! Brands, Nestlé and Wendy’s invite the industry to join this effort to identify a global solution to this shared challenge.
About Closed Loop Partners
Closed Loop Partners is an investment platform that invests in sustainable consumer goods, recycling and the development of the circular economy. Investors include many of the world’s largest consumer goods companies and family offices interested in investments that provide strong financial returns and tangible social impact. In 2018, Closed Loop Partners launched the Center for the Circular Economy, a New York City-based collaboration center for innovators to commercialize products, services and technologies that are leading the transition from a linear take, make, waste economy to a restorative one in which materials are shared, re-used, and continuously cycled. Learn more at www.closedlooppartners.com.
McDonald’s is the world’s leading global foodservice retailer with over 37,000 locations in over 100 countries. Over 90 percent of McDonald’s restaurants worldwide are owned and operated by independent local business men and women. This year McDonald’s announced a series of commitments demonstrating how it will use its Scale for Good to positively impact the planet and the communities it serves. You can read more about McDonald’s Scale for Good initiatives here.
Since 1971, Starbucks Coffee Company has been committed to ethically sourcing and roasting high-quality arabica coffee. Today, with stores around the globe, the company is the premier roaster and retailer of specialty coffee in the world. Through our unwavering commitment to excellence and our guiding principles, we bring the unique Starbucks Experience to life for every customer through every cup. To share in the experience, please visit us in our stores or online at https://stories.starbucks.com/ or www.starbucks.com.
“Solving the issue of plastic waste requires collaboration among many different stakeholders,” said Stefan Palzer, Nestlé Chief Technology Officer. “We are excited to join the NextGen Consortium and Cup Challenge as it brings together start-ups, industry partners and suppliers to find an industry wide, global packaging solution for sustainable to-go cups.”
“Yum! Brands would like to congratulate all of the Challenge winners for bringing forward incredible innovation that will help find food packaging solutions for our industry and beyond,” said Jon Hixson, VP Global Government Affairs and Sustainability, Yum! Brands. “The NextGen Consortium provides an amazing platform for collaboration and we look forward to seeing the continued progress that comes from the partnership to drive positive change in the value chain.”
“At Wendy’s, we know that our customers are increasingly aware of packaging waste and its impact on the environment,” said Liliana Esposito, Wendy’s Chief Communications Officer. “We embrace our role as being part of the solution, and one way we do that is to engage in partnerships that help us arrive at smart solutions, like our partnership with the NextGen Consortium. We congratulate the winners in this phase of the NextGen Cup Challenge, and look forward to seeing their ideas come to life and make a difference.”
“It’s encouraging to see such a diverse range of innovative solutions that represent milestones in the journey toward more comprehensive recyclability and compostability of cups across the board” said Nina Goodrich, Executive Director, GreenBlue and the Sustainable Packaging Coalition. (Nina Goodrich is a judge for the NextGen Cup Challenge)
“It’s great to see the momentum behind the NextGen Cup Challenge coming from a number of large brands,” said Abe Minkara, Managing Director, Mark Cuban Companies. “Together with the innovative winning ideas, the combination is truly powerful. Scaling a sustainable solution to the to-go cup ecosystem becomes not only attainable but inevitable.” (Abe Minkara is a judge for the NextGen Cup Challenge)
“The winners of the NextGen Cup Challenge represent an inventive spectrum of creative chemistry, design and manufacturing technology demonstrating real progress toward the recyclability and compostability of post-consumer cups and containers.” said Scott Seydel, Board Chair and CEO, The Seydel Companies and Board Trustee of the Ellen MacArthur Foundation US. (Scott Seydel is a judge for the NextGen Cup Challenge)