McDonald’s joins Starbucks to fund new coffee cup innovations

McDonald's has committed £3.8m ($5m) to help research, develop and commercialise recyclable and compostable coffee cups, joining Starbucks as a founding member of the NextGen Cup Consortium and Challenge.

The funds provided by McDonald’s builds on the £7m pledged by Starbucks to the Consortium earlier in the year. The NextGen Cup Consortium and Challenge will commence in September 2018 and offers a range of innovators access to $1m in funding to scale-up coffee cup solutions.

“McDonald’s is committed to using our scale for good to make positive changes that impact our planet and the communities we serve,” McDonald’s USA’s senior vice president and chief supply chain officer Marion Gross said.

“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.”

The consortium will launch a NextGen Cup Challenge to offer accelerator grants to start-ups that have prototypes for compostable or recyclable cups. Starbucks announced the launch of the project in March 2018 and will now collaborate with McDonald’s to assist start-ups with a route to market for viable products.

Starbucks and McDonald’s are aiming to develop a global solution that stops plastic-lined paper coffee cups being sent to landfill, by either giving them a second life as another cup or other recycled content. Successful innovations will be released onto the North American market.

The reason that coffee cups are so difficult to recycle is that they are sealed with a polyethylene (plastic) lining on the interior. This lining – which is used in both McDonald’s and Starbucks cups – is bonded tightly to the paper to prevent it from going soggy, but polyethylene can’t be recycled along with ordinary paper waste by local councils. In the UK, 5,000 coffee cups are discarded each minute, but less than 1% of these are actually recycled.

“We are proud to come together with industry partners like McDonald’s to drive innovative, scalable solutions for cup waste,” Starbuck’s vice president of global social impact Colleen Chapman said. “A better cup will benefit the entire industry and we invite others to join us as we move these efforts forward.”

Closed Loop Partners

In partnership with the Closed Loop Partners, a sustainable consumer goods investment firm, the NextGen initiative will also outline plans to create recyclable coffee cup lids and straws at a later date.

In the UK, both Starbucks and McDonald’s are part of a joint deal to roll out more than 400 recycling points for disposable coffee cups across the UK.

McDonald’s has announced that by 2025, 100% of its guest packaging will come from recycled, renewable or certified sources – the preference being Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certified – while also aiming to recycle 100% of restaurant packaging.

McDonald’s is also working with British papermakers James Cropper and Veolia to create a recycling process for coffee cups, while Starbucks offers in-store recycling of disposable cups and discounts for consumers who bring in reusable cups.

edie’s Responsible Retail 2018

Solving key challenges – including modern slavery, supply chain involvement and the circular economy – will be one of the key themes of edie’s third annual Responsible Retail conference, taking place on 20 September 2018 at 99 City Road, London.

The full-day event has been designed for the retailers, sustainability professionals and key stakeholders that are looking for the information, insight and inspiration required to seize the sustainability opportunity.

Find out more about Responsible Retail 2018 and register to attend here.

Matt Mace

Comments (2)

  1. Mark Woodward says:

    I think we have to be very careful especially around Compostable where there are now indications Compostable plastics create micro plastic pollution, also there are indications when we tell consumers that something is Compostable they think they can put it in the land fill bin and it is miraculously going to turn to soil, so when you consider current paper cup in the U.K. is recyclable in over 80% of councils providing bring banks and over 20% of councils offering kerb side collections, whatever we propose to move to has to be able to be more easily recyclable, and this is not as simple as you may first think.
    E.g if a paper cup is pulpable it could be recycled with your newspapers, but would councils allow food contaminated packaging to be recycled in this way, how would the kerb side collections be able to tell what was pulpable and what is just normal paper cups, and for that matter how would consumers know?

  2. Dennis Collins says:

    Hi ,
    My name is Dennis Collins and I can recycle a normal coffee cup 100%.I have a patented process that can take the plastic out of the coffee cup in one piece.If these people are looking to find a way to recycle coffee cups 100% then look no further.We have designed a plant that can recycle 100 million coffee cups a
    Dennis Collins

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