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Companies Partner to Create Compostable Cup Solution

Justin Sullivan/Getty Images starbucks coffee cup
McDonald’s joins Starbucks and Closed Loop Partners to develop a recyclable and/or compostable cup solution through the NextGen Cup Consortium and Challenge.

The NextGen Cup Consortium and Challenge, convened by Closed Loop Partners, announced that McDonald’s joins Starbucks as a founding member of the group to develop a global recyclable and/or compostable cup solution. The announcement follows recent commitments by both companies to drive innovation of their packaging and help reduce waste. 

McDonald’s stated it is committing $5 million in partnership with Closed Loop Partners to help launch the NextGen Cup Consortium and Challenge, which was announced earlier this year. McDonald's contribution will bring the total contributed amount to $10 million. The challenge kicks off in September and invites innovators, entrepreneurs, industry experts and recyclers to submit their ideas for the next generation of recyclable and/or compostable cups.

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

“McDonald’s is committed to using our scale for good to make positive changes that impact our planet and the communities we serve,” stated Marion Gross, senior vice president and chief supply chain officer at McDonald’s USA, in a statement. “We are excited to join Starbucks and Closed Loop to help solve this pressing challenge as collaboration is key to finding a scalable, lasting global solution.”

“We are proud to come together with industry partners like McDonald’s to drive innovative, scalable solutions for cup waste,” said Colleen Chapman, vice president of global social Impact focused on sustainability for Starbucks, in a statement. “A better cup will benefit the entire industry, and we invite others to join us as we move these efforts forward.”

NextGen builds on years of work in the industry and is a major step in the development of a global solution that could allow the 600 billion cups globally to be diverted from landfills and given a second life. 

NextGen is in the process of building an advisory council that will include leaders in environmental NGOs including WWF, human-centered design, academic leaders, the paper and plastic industry, recyclers, composters and municipalities.

“There has never been a greater need to tackle the ways in which we source and recover materials. McDonald’s participation is a strong step forward in building momentum from major brands to come together and develop innovative approaches to materials waste,” stated Erin Simon, director of sustainability research and development (R&D) and material science at World Wildlife Fund, U.S., in a statement. “Working together across the entire value chain of these major companies will allow us to create a comprehensive and lasting solution to this critical conservation challenge.”

The NextGen Cup Challenge, in partnership with OpenIDEO, will be open to supply chain leaders and solution providers that have promising solutions to recover single-use cups—with a focus on the fiber based hot and cold cup—starting with creating a fully recyclable cup in North America.

“To date we have received more than 1,000 inquiries from companies and individuals interested in participating in the challenge, and we anticipate some exciting and impactful proposals,” stated Kate Daly, executive director of the Center for the Circular Economy at Closed Loop Partners, in a statement. “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.”

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