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Starbucks begins in-store testing of NextGen sustainable cup


MILAN – Starbucks has begun its first market tests of a recyclable and compostable hot cup solution. The trial is part of the NextGen Cup Challenge and will see cups lined with biodegradable polybutylene succinate (BioPBS) plastic circulated in selected stores in Vancouver, Seattle, San Francisco, New York, and London for a limited time.

The BioPBS lining makes the cup compostable and recyclable. This could allow Starbucks to move away from the plastic cup liners that adhere to paper cups, keeping the cups from leaking but making them difficult to recycle.

Starbucks will be seeking feedback from baristas and customers about whether the prototype cups actually prevent leaks and keep drinks hot. The company says customers who use the prototype “will not see any noticeable difference from the current cup.”

The NextGen Cup Challenge was co-founded by Starbucks and McDonald’s and established in partnership with New York-based investment firm Closed Loop Partners and global consortium NextGen Consortium.

It seeks to address single-use packaging waste by developing an industry-wide recyclable and compostable to-go cup solution.

The NextGen Cup Challenge began with a six-month design competition that received hundreds of ideas from industry experts and cup scientists alike. From there, the Consortium then identified 12 winning teams to further work with on their potential to serve as solutions for various business models.

In March of 2019, Starbucks announced a commitment to conduct market tests with the cup technologies in select stores in five cities.

Starbucks then conducted months of internal research and development at their Tryer Center, putting the various cups through an array of tests for quality and performance measurements. In addition, the company evaluated manufacturing logistics, scalability, and pricing of each cup.

Nearly a year later, Starbucks has identified one of the cup solutions that is ready to introduce into the hands of partners and customers to test the overall experience in stores.

The testing doesn’t end there. Starbucks is currently working with Closed Loop Partners, the Consortium and other businesses on continuing to test and validate the recyclability of the various challenge winners, including the BioPBS cup.

It is also continuing the work with key stakeholders in the recycling industry to advocate for increasing the overall recyclability of cups and ensure they are ultimately accepted within municipalities.