Starbucks invests in quest for recyclable, compostable coffee cups

The chain’s NextGen Cup Challenge will award grants to inventors who develop green cup solutions.

Starbucks is putting $10 million toward developing a fully recyclable, compostable coffee cup.

The coffee giant has launched the NextGen Cup Challenge in partnership with sustainable investment group Closed Loop Partners and its Center for the Circular Economy.

The consortium, which also includes the World Wildlife Fund, will award grants to those working on sustainable cup designs.

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

All phases of the cup’s development will be open-source, so that other inventors and entrepreneurs can learn from the process, the group said.

Starbucks is about to embark on its 13th internal test of sustainable cup designs in the past year. The latest trial tests a new plant-based cup bio-liner.

Starbucks cups account for an estimated 1% of the 600 billion paper and plastic cups used globally each year, the coffee company said. Currently, Starbucks cups are made with 10% post-consumer recycled fiber, but are only recyclable in select cities.

The company’s shareholders meeting this week in Seattle will include a coffee tasting featuring fully recyclable sample cups made out of recycled Starbucks cups.

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