This month, Starbucks begins its first market tests of a recyclable and compostable hot cup solution as part of the NextGen Cup Challenge, which seeks to address single-use packaging waste by developing an industry-wide recyclable and compostable to-go cup solution. This is a step forward in the company’s journey to better manage its waste by ensuring more reuse and recycling.
In 2018, Starbucks and co-founder McDonald’s, committed $10M in partnership with Closed Loop Partners to establish the NextGen Consortium and Cup Challenge. Additionally, Starbucks invested $5M in Closed Loop Partners’ Infrastructure Fund that finances recycling and circular economy infrastructure across North America.
The NextGen Cup Challenge began with a six-month design competition that received hundreds of ideas from industry experts and cup scientists alike. From there, the Consortium then identified 12 winning teams to further work with on their potential to serve as solutions for various business models.
In March of 2019, Starbucks announced a commitment to conduct market tests with the cup technologies in select stores in five cities, including Seattle, San Francisco, New York, Vancouver and London. Starbucks then conducted months of internal research and development at their Tryer Center, putting the various cups through an array of tests for quality and performance measurements. In addition, the company evaluated manufacturing logistics, scalability, and pricing of each cup.
Nearly a year later, Starbucks has identified one of the cup solutions that is ready to introduce into the hands of partners and customers to test the overall experience in stores. The cup, being tested in select stores for a limited time, features an innovative cup liner, called BioPBS™, which makes the cup certified compostable and recyclable. Customers will not see any noticeable difference from the current cup as Starbucks aims to create a seamless customer experience with the new cup.
The testing doesn’t end there. Starbucks is currently working with Closed Loop Partners, the Consortium and other businesses on continuing to test and validate the recyclability of the various challenge winners, including the BioPBS™ cup. We are also continuing the work with key stakeholders in the recycling industry to advocate for increasing the overall recyclability of cups and ensure they are ultimately accepted within municipalities.
The journey to find a more sustainable cup solution is part of Starbucks aspiration to be resource positive, giving more than it takes from the planet. In addition to market testing, the company continues to evaluate a variety of NextGen Cup Challenge winning concepts and cup technologies, as well as plans to learn from other reusable and recyclable innovations to find the best sustainable solutions for its business, partners (employees) and customers.