NextGen Cup Challenge must deliver and prioritize cup innovations that maximize recycled fiber, avoid sourcing from sensitive forests

SEATTLE, WA —Closed Loop Partners, Starbucks and McDonald’s today launched the NextGen Cup Challenge, a global consortium that seeks to develop a fully recyclable and compostable paper cup and support recycling system innovations that will help divert millions of coffee cups from landfills each year.

“If successful, the NextGen Cup Challenge could help address the billions of coffee cups that unnecessarily end up in landfills each year. But in order to hit its mark, the consortium needs to deliver a recyclable and compostable paper coffee cup that maximizes recycled fiber content, avoids sourcing materials from sensitive forests, and supports recycling infrastructure innovations that enable the fiber in the cups to be recycled again and again.” -Tyson Miller, Forest Programs Director, Stand.earth

International environmental organization Stand.earth has been calling on Starbucks and the industry to do something about its massive disposable cup problem. More than 250 billion paper cups end up in the landfill globally every year. 

From 2016-2018, Stand.earth ran its #BetterCup campaign against Starbucks, calling on the coffee giant to make a 100% recyclable paper cup, increase post-consumer recycled fiber, and recommit to Starbucks’ 2008 goal of serving 25% of beverages in reusable cups. Disposable coffee cups are not accepted for recycling in most U.S. cities because the plastic lining makes them inefficient and uneconomical to recycle.

In March 2018, Starbucks announced it would commit $10 million to the partnership to bring a fully recyclable and compostable paper cup to market in three years. McDonald’s joined the Challenge as a founding partner in July 2018 and others are continuing to join.

“The sheer volume of coffee cups that are used once and thrown away each year is truly astounding — especially given that the majority of these cups are made from clearcut forests and not recycled paper. The NextGen Cup Challenge is a step in the right direction, but ultimately, we need to transform our throw-away society by reducing to-go cups and switching to reusable cups.” -Todd Paglia, Executive Director, Stand.earth

The Challenge invites businesses, inventors and entrepreneurs to identify scalable solutions to make a paper cup that is recyclable and compostable. Challenge winners will be announced in 2019, and up to $1 million in funding will be available to top ideas. 

With millions of trees and a great deal of plastic used to produce paper cups globally, the NextGen Cup Challenge’s real success lies in a cultural shift away from single-use paper cups toward reusable cups. The cups should contain at least 20% post-consumer recycled fiber, and must be made with materials that are responsibly sourced — such as Forest Stewardship Council certified paper (not the greenwashed Sustainable Forest Initiative). 

Stand will be closely monitoring the NextGen Cup Challenge effort and will continue to engage with its leadership and member companies and stakeholders. 

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Media contact: Tyson Miller, Forest Programs Director, Stand.earth, tyson@stand.earth, 828-279-2343