What is NextGen Cup?
NextGen Cup is the first initiative by the NextGen Consortium, a multi-year partnership of food-service industry leaders to address single-use food packaging waste globally. In this first phase, we aim to advance recoverable solutions for the fiber, hot and cold, to-go cup system. We believe this is a critical step to unlock wider innovations and overcome the global infrastructural challenges of single-use packaging.
“No one is satisfied with the incremental industry progress made to date, it’s just not moving fast enough. This is a moon shot for sustainability to work together as an industry to bring a fully recyclable and compostable cup to the market.”
Colleen Chapman, Vice President, Global Social Impact, Starbucks (NextGen Consortium founding member)
“McDonald’s is committed to using our scale for good. 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.”
Marion Gross, Senior Vice President and Chief Supply Chain Officer, McDonald’s USA (NextGen Consortium founding member)
We envision globally available to-go cups designed with their next life and use in mind. These cups will be made of ethically sourced and sustainable materials. After consumer use and collection, the valuable cup materials will be given new life as other products or added to compost to become agricultural soil.
Why NextGen Cup?
Every day, millions of people around the world drink from fiber cups. They’re safe, functional and convenient – so much so that globally, more than 250 billion cups are produced each year.
But convenience comes with environmental consequences. Trees are cut down for the fiber and petroleum is extracted for making plastic, in the process, degrading ecosystems and emitting greenhouse gases that cause climate change. While many cups are potentially recyclable, in practice the vast majority end up in landfill, wasting valuable resources.
The difficulty with today’s cups
There are two core issues with fiber cups: how they’re made and how the materials they’re made of are valued. Most fiber cups have a plastic liner to prevent leaks. The fiber and plastic are recyclable once separated but limitations and inconsistencies in recycling infrastructure around the world mean that in most markets these materials aren’t easily recovered. And while recycled fiber and plastic are valuable, what’s currently recoverable from cups doesn’t sell for much, so there’s no strong incentive for recyclers to recover the materials.
The food-service industry has been working toward a more sustainable cup for many years, but we have yet to find a solution that addresses the structural and commercial systems that produce, collect and recover our cups, while also meeting industry standards.
That’s where NextGen comes in. We aim to identify and commercialize cup solutions that minimize environmental impact, are valuable to recovery systems and meet health, safety and performance standards.
NextGen has a three-stage, multi-year approach. First, we’ll identify high-potential cup solutions that could work globally. We’ll then provide critical resources and industry expertise to accelerate their commercialization. Finally, NextGen will match solutions to value chain partners to provide testing, piloting and opportunities to scale the solution.
The NextGen Cup Challenge
Developing cups for use, recycling or composting and efficient recovery across multiple geographic regions is complex and it’s likely that more than one solution exists. Through an open-innovation challenge, we’re casting a wide net and inviting designers, businesses, students and innovators from around the world to submit ideas. The most promising cup system solutions that meet our criteria and industry standards win funding and the opportunity to participate in a Business Accelerator.
The Business Accelerator
Good ideas don't succeed in isolation – early- and growth-stage innovators need access to resources to succeed at scale. Working alongside industry partners and sector leaders, we will advance global end-to-end solutions to the market. Business Accelerator participants, and large companies not in the Accelerator, receive access to a network of experts, business and technical resources and testing and piloting opportunities to support how they can scale and make their products globally available.
Value chain partnerships
To keep cups out of landfills and for new solutions to be effective, they need to benefit companies and markets across the entire cup value chain. Through upstream and downstream collaboration, NextGen will ensure the cup is viable for recovery and that materials retain their value from production to consumers to recovery and back again. We’re working closely with recovery systems, suppliers, manufacturers, trade organizations, municipalities and NGOs to understand and overcome infrastructure and logistics challenges and bottlenecks.
“The truth is no cup is recyclable until it is widely accepted by communities, recycling facilities and paper mills. We look forward to continued collaboration towards a truly recyclable cup.”
Lynn M. Dyer, President, Foodservice Packaging Institute (NextGen value chain partner)