In 2018, we launched the NextGen Cup Challenge, an open, global design competition seeking to identify and commercialize existing and future solutions for the single-use, hot and cold fiber cup system. Students, suppliers, entrepreneurs, designers and businesses were invited to submit their innovative ideas. The winners of the Challenge were announced in February 2019, awardees were eligible to receive a portion of funding up to $1 million.

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 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.

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Congratulations to the 12 Winners!

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.

  • Muuse, operates a deposit-based platform for smart, reusable beverage packaging, connecting their cups--and third party products--to Internet of Things technologies.

Six of the 12 winners have joined the NextGen Circular Business Accelerator, which takes place over 6 months. You can learn more about the Accelerator here.

For those winning teams not entering the NextGen Circular Business Accelerator, we will be working with Consortium Partners to identify potential candidates for in-market piloting opportunities in regions across the globe. 

“The idea of environmental sustainability in packaging is not just a Starbucks issue. It’s a global issue. Anything that gets us closer to that goal is not something we want to keep to ourselves.”

Andy Corlett, Director of Packaging R&D, Starbucks (NextGen Consortium founding member)

Challenge Journey

1. Pre-Launch
Starts on Sep 25, 2018

2. Ideas Phase
Starts on Oct 9, 2018

Review Phase
Starts on Nov 17, 2018

Refinement Phase
Starts on Dec 7, 2018

Final Review Phase
Starts on Jan 18, 2019


Top Ideas Announcement
Feb 27, 2019


What we are looking for

The NextGen Cup Challenge aims to push the boundaries of sustainable design and material innovation to solve a prevalent global waste issue. We’re looking for cup ideas that will work now and in the future as recovery infrastructures improve. Materials used in solutions should aim to be ethically and sustainably sourced, contain recycled content, and consider how disposal or reuse would be globally applicable or bespoke to regional needs.AA1]


What we provide

Designing a more sustainable fiber cup that’s accessible to the entire food-service industry requires cross-sector collaboration from designers, entrepreneurs, engineers, scientists and more. Throughout the Challenge, we’ll support participants with technical standards and material information, access to experts and toolkits to guide innovation and prototyping. Early- and growth-stage Challenge awardees receive funding and have up to six top ideas have the opportunity to join our Business Accelerator program.

Investors, packaging, recovery and supply chain experts and business leaders will provide piloting and testing opportunities for Accelerator participants and large companies not in the Accelerator. The goal is to commercialize and scale ideas and align them with the current and future interests of up- and downstream stakeholders.


A successful cup solution must work for people, planet and business. Submissions will be evaluated according to criteria you can find on the Challenge page.



Your idea should work for people and meet or exceed the food-service industry’s safety, health and performance requirements.



Your idea should minimize the use of virgin material and favor ethical, recycled and sustainable materials. It should also enable materials to be recaptured at their highest value through recycling or composting.



Your idea should have a path to scale, work for the entire cup value chain and be globally applicable or target specific regional infrastructures.