Starbucks announce $10m (£7m) challenge to design a recyclable coffee cup

Starbucks has partnered with a recycling-focused investor group called Closed Loop Partners for the ‘NextGen Cup Challenge’, and the coffee giant will award grants to entrepreneurs working on ideas that could lead to the development of a fully sustainable coffee cup.

The announcement will also come as welcome news to the UK government who recently refused to introduce a so-called ‘latte levy’.

They instead decided to leave it to the coffee chains to self-regulate and introduce their own measures aimed at curbing the amount of waste created by coffee cups.

In February, Starbucks introduced a 5p cup charge at 35 of their London chains.

Colleen Chapman, vice president of Starbucks global social impact overseeing sustainability said: ‘Our store partners proudly pour sustainably sourced coffee in our 28,000 locations around the world, but everyone wants to take our ability to serve it sustainably to the next level,’

No one is satisfied with the incremental industry progress made to date, it’s just not moving fast enough. So today, we are declaring a moon shot for sustainability to work together as an industry to bring a fully recyclable and compostable cup to the market, with a three-year ambition.’

Rob Kaplan, managing director of Closed Loop Partners, said: ‘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.’

100bn disposable cups end up in landfill globally each year which is 273,972,603 coffee cups every single day.

The announcement is a win for campaigners such as Friends of the Earth, who say they will continue to put pressure on Starbucks and the government to find a solution.

Julian Kirby, plastic campaigner at Friends of the Earth told Environment Journal: ‘Urgent action is needed to tackle the scourge of plastic waste that’s harming our environment and wildlife. The public is right to want plastic pollution to be curbed – and pulling the plug on single-use plastic-coated coffee cups is something that needs to happen.

Starbucks is right to act on coffee cups, but they must ensure that the alternatives are plastic-free – and pay for any infrastructure needed to deal with an increase in recyclable or compostable cups. Government action is essential too – ministers must develop a plan to phase-out all but the safest and most essential uses of plastic.’

Thomas Barrett

Thomas Barrett

Journalist. Follow him on Twitter

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