Update on Starbucks Journey to Find a More Sustainable Cup

Updated October 20, 2021

In collaboration with Closed Loop Partners and the NextGen Consortium, Starbucks is working toward our goal to develop 100% compostable and recyclable hot cups. The journey to find a more sustainable cup solution is part of Starbucks aspiration to be resource positive, giving more than it takes from the planet.

In 2018, Starbucks committed $10M in partnership with Closed Loop Partners to establish the NextGen Consortium and Cup Challenge, along with co-founder McDonald’s. Additionally, Starbucks invested $5M in Closed Loop Partners’ Infrastructure Fund that finances recycling and circular economy infrastructure across North America.

The NextGen Cup Challenge began with a six-month design competition that received 480 solutions globally from industry experts and cup scientists alike focused on redesigning the single-use hot and cold fiber cup. From there, the Consortium identified 12 winning solutions across three areas: innovative cup & cup liners, new materials, and reusable cup service models.

In March of 2019, Starbucks announced a commitment to conduct market tests with a winning cup technology in select stores in five cities. Starbucks then led months of internal research and development at their Tryer Center, to put the various cups through an array of tests for quality and performance measurements. In addition, the company evaluated manufacturing logistics, scalability, and pricing of each cup.  

In-store market testing began in the spring of 2020 with a cup that was industrially compostable as well as recyclable in markets that accept hot cups. Starbucks selected cup technology – a BioPBS™-lined cup – was circulated in select stores in Vancouver, Seattle, San Francisco, New York and London.

The testing doesn’t end there. Starbucks is currently working with Closed Loop Partners, the Consortium, and other businesses to test and validate the recyclability of various challenge winners, including the BioPBS™ cup. This includes an additional $10M commitment from Starbucks and McDonald’s combined to continue the Consortium’s work: identifying, accelerating, and scaling commercially viable, circular foodservice packaging solutions.

With the additional $10 million in funding, the Consortium will expand its efforts, including and beyond the fiber cup, to strengthen the sustainable packaging ecosystem. The Consortium will deepen its customer research and testing of reusable packaging systems, explore the circularity of additional packaging materials such as polypropylene (PP), and accelerate the development of more widely recyclable and compostable fiber-based packaging solutions, as well as the infrastructure pathways needed for their recovery.

In addition to efforts with the Consortium, Starbucks will continue to test and learn from programs geared toward reducing single-use cups around the world, as part of the company’s larger goal to reduce waste sent to landfills by 50% by 2030.