Starbucks Launches Accelerator Funding for Sustainable Cup Solutions

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SEATTLE — Starbucks has committed $10 million, in partnership with Closed Loop Partners and its Center for the Circular Economy, to establish a consortium to launch the NextGen Cup Challenge. This is the first step in the development of a global end-to-end solution that would allow cups around the world to be diverted from landfills and composted or given a second life.

Through the NextGen Cup Challenge, the consortium will award accelerator grants to entrepreneurs working on ideas that could lead to the development of more sustainable cup solutions and invite industry participation and partnership on the way to identifying a global solution.

“Through this partnership, the challenge will enable leading innovators and entrepreneurs with financial, technical and expert resources to fast-track global solutions and help get those solutions to shelf, through the recovery system and back into the supply chain,” says Rob Kaplan, managing director of Closed Loop Partners.

Throughout development, the solution will be open source so others can benefit and innovate on the path towards the development of recyclable and compostable cups around the world.

“We want to make sure this technology is available to everyone because it’s the right thing to do,” says Andy Corlett, director of Packaging R&D for Starbucks. “The idea of environmental sustainability in packaging is not just a Starbucks issue — it’s a global issue. Anything that gets us closer to that goal is not something we want to keep to ourselves.”

As the NextGen Challenge kicks off, internal research continues as Starbucks’ R&D team initiates a trial of a new bio-liner — made partially from plant-based materials — for its paper cup. The internal trial, expected to take six months, will test not only for environmental impact, but whether the cup’s liner can stand up to stringent safety requirements and quality standards when filled with a hot liquid. This trial marks the 13th internal test of its kind in the last year alone.

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