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McDonald’s teams with Starbucks on search for recyclable, compostable cups

McDonald’s is joining an effort begun this spring by its coffee-focused rival, Starbucks, to produce a recyclable hot beverage cup.

The NextGen Cup Consortium is the centerpiece of Starbucks’ third attempt in the last decade to redesign the ubiquitous plastic-lined paper cup for recycling or composting. While plastic straws have been in the news lately, the consortium says these cups are “the most significant challenge faced by the industry.”

After continued pressure from environmental groups, as well as some customers and employees, Starbucks said in March it would commit $10 million over three years to the effort, while calling the coffee cup problem larger than any one company.

The addition of McDonald’s – along with a $5 million funding commitment from the restaurant chain – bolsters the consortium’s chances of making a real impact on the lifecycle of some 600 billion cups sent to landfills annually.

Much of the funding will flow to entrepreneurs working on recyclable and compostable cup designs who compete in the NextGen Cup Challenge, beginning in September. More than 1,000 companies and individuals have expressed interest in participating, according to Kate Daly of Closed Loop Partners, which convened the consortium and challenge.

The consortium will award up to $1 million in funding to selected teams, up to seven of which will be offered a spot in a six-month accelerator program to help scale up, with input from representatives of the cup supply chain, to the volume necessary to serve the vast disposable cup market.

Last week, Starbucks announced it would phase out plastic straws at its stores globally by 2020.

In 2008, Seattle became the first city in the nation to ban single-use plastic products in food service, with an exemption for straws expiring this year. San Francisco is now considering a similar restriction.


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