The NextGen Cup Challenge is an open innovation initiative 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 can join. Ideas may also include cup lids, sleeves, straws and consider reuse and alternative delivery systems. Awardees are eligible to receive a portion of funding up to $1 million. Up to six top ideas can enter our Circular Business Accelerator following the Challenge.

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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.


“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.