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NextGen To-Go Cup:

Shortlist Announcement

The Center for the Circular Economy at Closed Loop Partners is the Managing Partner of the NextGen Consortium, which seeks to find a global recoverable solution for the fiber, hot and cold, to-go cup system. With over 250 billion cups produced a year, there is a lot of opportunity for improving the recoverability of materials at end-of-life. Nearly 500 innovative ideas were submitted to the NextGen Cup Challenge, and we announced 29 shortlisted entrants on December 10th. 

We’ve all been in that situation, poised at the trash can, unsure of whether or not the disposable cup we’re holding is recyclable. The mix of materials - paper with a plastic liner to prevent leaks - causes confusion, as does the inconsistency of collectability across stores and cities, around the globe. And whether it’s due to images of litter strewn beaches, or greater awareness of waste as an environmental issue, the public is increasingly conscious of the unintended consequences of our consumption habits.


With over 250 billion disposable cups produced each year, there’s a serious need for the recovery of these valuable materials at end-of-life. Right now, the majority of disposable cups are ending up in landfill, contributing to greenhouse gas emissions and becoming trash instead of resources.


The NextGen Consortium, convened by the Center for the Circular Economy at Closed Loop Partners, with Starbucks and McDonald’s as Founding Partners, launched an innovation challenge this September, inviting innovators, recyclers, designers, and entrepreneurs to reimagine the to-go cup and submit ideas for a global recyclable and/or compostable cup solution. 480 submissions later, we’re officially announcing the 29 Ideas Shortlist!


The sheer number and breadth of ideas submitted were heartening, spanning mycelium cups to biodegradable liners, and designed by enthusiastic individuals as well as large corporate teams, there was overwhelming interest in participating in a global cup solution.


What’s more, the unique combination of the NextGen Consortium’s Founding Partners - Starbucks and McDonald’s - shows a clear readiness for global change. As two of the world’s largest food-service industry leaders, rather than work on solutions in isolation of one another, they’ve embraced a pre-competitive collaboration. This is the spirit needed to truly cultivate and scale groundbreaking innovations, evolve packaging supply chains to be more sustainable and change complex systems with many levers.


Congratulations to the 29 Shortlisted Ideas that made it past the review phase. Explore the various ideas here and see what new materials are emerging, as well as the latest innovations in cup liners and cup design. Start to see what a waste-free future might look like, and stay tuned for the top ideas announcement in February!


Kate Daly is the Executive Director of the Center for the Circular Economy, at Closed Loop Partners. The Center is a NYC-based hub for collaboration, R&D, investment and innovation in order to advance the transition from a linear take-make-waste economy to a restorative one in which materials are shared, re-used, and continuously cycled. Follow Kate on twitter @K8_Daly or at the Center @LoopFund.

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