McDonald’s joins Starbucks in envisioning ‘the last straw’

July 18, 2018

The NextGen Cup Consortium and Challenge—launched in March and convened by the Closed Loop Partners—announced on July 17 that McDonald’s is joining Starbucks as a founding member. Together, they have pledged to develop a global recyclable and/or compostable cup solution.

The challenge was started after ecologists realized that, in the USA alone, 500 million straws become unrecyclable waste each year.

McDonald’s is committing $5 million in partnership with Closed Loop Partners to help launch the NextGen Cup Consortium and Challenge—bringing the total contributed 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 of 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,” said McDonald’s’, SVP and Chief Supply Chain Officer Marion Gross. “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, VP of Global Social Impact focused on sustainability for Starbucks. “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 critical step in the development of a global end-to-end solution that will potentially allow the 600 billion cups globally to be diverted from landfills and given a second life.

NextGen is building a robust advisory council including leaders in environmental NGOs including WWF; human-centered design, academic leaders, the paper and plastic industry, recyclers, composters, and municipalities. This council will ensure that the work is grounded in the needs of the entire value chain and the cups make it from shelf to consumer and back through the recovery system to another high value use.

“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,” says Erin Simon, director of Sustainability Research and Development (R&D) and Material Science at World Wildlife Fund–U.S. “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.”

“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,” says Kate Daly, executive director of the Center for the Circular Economy at Closed Loop Partners. “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. This is the type of partnership we need to foster innovative solutions without sacrificing profit. We are working with consortium members to build a robust shared set of technical, performance, and environmental criteria that we will announce later this summer.”

While NextGen intends to work on the entire cup system, including cups, lids and straws, its first challenge will focus on the fiber-based hot and cold cup, as this is the most significant challenge faced by the industry.

Research contact: @K8_Daly

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