NextGen Cups seek to reduce single-use waste from takeaway cups

Make Mine a Takeaway

Forgot your reusable cup? Guilt-free takeaway coffee cups may be just around the corner, thanks to this innovative consortium

Was it really only two weeks ago that we woke up to headlines telling us that Starbucks was banning reusable cups to help tackle the spread of Coronavirus? Now with the news that coffee chains, cafes and restaurants are shutting their doors, a takeaway coffee is becoming a distant – and slightly wistful – memory.

However, takeaway cups are making headlines again, and this time with a more positive spin.

NextGen Consortium, a multi-year, global initiative seeking ‘to address single-use food packaging waste’, has announced 12 winners in its NextGen Cup Challenge.

This open, global design competition, aided in its work by innovation partner IDEO, has been looking for more sustainable solutions to the problem of takeaway cups, including the sleeves, straws, cups, lids and liners.

‘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.’

Andy Corlett, Director of Packaging R&D, Starbucks (NextGen Consortium founding member)

We use 250 billion hot and cold takeaway cups around the world each year, 2.5 billion in the UK alone.

But these fibre cups have a thin layer of plastic that lines the inside to stop the liquid from seeping into and through the cup. That’s good news while we’re sipping our oat milk latte, but not so good when we’re done with it.

The plastic lining prevents the cup from biodegrading in landfill. And because the lining would need to be removed from the cup before recycling the sleeve, it’s too difficult and costly to be done at scale.

But the 12 winners of the NextGen Cup have solutions that fall into three broad categories – innovations in recyclable or compostable cups and liners, cutting edge plant-based materials that biodegrade after use and reusable cup service models similar to bike sharing schemes.

NextGen Cups seek to reduce single-use waste from takeaway cups

‘We are seeing a growing demand from consumers and policy makers – and therefore an opportunity for brands – to completely rethink how we deliver products.

And eliminating the need for single-use packaging in the first place is part of the suite of tools that can reduce waste and climate impact.

From “naked” stores with no packaging to tech-enabled reusable packaging that tracks and recirculates items, sometimes with a consumer incentive, these models are growing. And cups are the next frontier, with a goal of making reusable cups as convenient as single-use.’

Closed Loop Partners, NextGen Consortium Managing Partner

Six of the 12 winners will go through the NextGen Circular Business Accelerator to continue to build and scale their designs. They are:

  • Colombier Barrier Coating (Netherlands): creates a recyclable and compostable barrier for paperboard cups.
  • Footprint (USA): creates cups, lids and straws that are fully formed fiber-based solutions, with an aqueous-based coating that is recyclable and compostable.
  • Solublue (UK): creates plant-based, food grade and non-toxic products that biodegrade after use.
  • CupClub (UK): operates a returnable cup ecosystem, providing a service for drinks. Think bike sharing, but for cups.
  • ReCup (Germany): operates a deposit system for reusable cups. Rent their cup and return it to any participating partner shop. No cleaning of the cup or carrying around required.
  • Muuse (Indonesia): operates a deposit-based platform for smart, reusable beverage packaging, connecting their cups–and third party products–to Internet of Things technologies.

Definitely exciting times and I can’t wait to see these solutions develop.

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