McDonald's And Starbucks Team Up To Create A Greener Cup

Posted On: 7/19/2018

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McDonald's and Starbucks are teaming up to build a fully recyclable, compostable cup, and the infrastructure to support its disposal, within the next three years.

The joint effort comes amid a sweeping food and beverage industry movement to reduce plastic and eliminate straws. Starbucks recently created a new lid to replace straws in many of its cold drinks as part of its effort to eliminate straws all together by 2020.

Together, McDonald's and Starbucks distribute an estimated 4% of the world's 600 billion cups annually. While both companies' cups are recyclable, they rarely are recycled, often because local municipalities lack the infrastructure to support it. The fast food and coffee chain giants plan to set a precedent by leveraging their combined scale to transform the ways in which disposable cups are made and discarded, including what recyclers and composters can accept at scale.

Their initiative kicks off the NextGen Cup Challenge, which invites entrepreneurs to develop materials and to make today's cups more environmentally friendly. The challenge will fund startups and help them work together to combine their ideas into market-ready solutions. Starbucks launched the challenge earlier this year with environmentally focused innovation and investment firm Closed Loop Partners and McDonald's just joined the initiative.

Closed Loop Partners has a $100 million loan fund to improve local recycling facilities, and expertise at designing solutions that can meet the real-world conditions of the infrastructural back-end. Starbucks has contributed $5 million to the fund, and McDonald's has matched that.

The challenge officially kicks off in September, and winning contenders will enter a six-month accelerator program and receive up to $1 million in funding. OpenIdeo, an online community where people can create solutions to some of the world's toughest challenges, will run the competition, while the accelerator companies will collaborate with teams within McDonald's and Starbucks to develop cup technologies.