Coca-Cola USA Food Service & On-Premise today joined The Closed Loop Partners (CLP) Next Generation Cup Challenge, a global open innovation initiative to identify sustainable solutions for single-use, hot and cold fiber cups. 

The goal of the NextGen Cup Challenge is to find and commercialize existing and new cup solutions that are designed to be recyclable or compostable and, when recycled or composted, produce quality materials that carry high economic value in recovery markets around the world. Each year, an estimated 250 billion fiber cups are distributed globally. Most of these paper cups are lined with plastic and, in most recycling markets, these materials are not easily separated for recovery. As a result, most end up in landfills.

The challenge invites designers, businesses, entrepreneurs, students and more to identify scalable solutions to make cups recyclable and compostable. Winners will be announced in early 2019. Up to $1 million in funding is available to top ideas, and up to seven finalists will have the opportunity to enter a circular business accelerator program to get their products through supply chains and into the hands of consumers.

Coca-Cola joins the NextGen Consortium as a Demand Level Champion with Yum! Brands and founding partners Starbucks and McDonald's. As a Demand Level Champion, Coca-Cola will have insight into the innovation pipeline and be able to invest in pilots of the concepts – which could include solutions for cup lids, sleeves, straws, liners as they become available. The innovation pipeline may include, and/or consider reuse and alternative delivery options.

“At Coca-Cola we are focused on improving the sustainability of our packaging across our entire supply chain,” said Bruce Karas, vice president, Environment & Sustainability, Coca-Cola North America. “Collaborative frameworks like the Next Generation Cup Challenge offer tremendous potential for addressing the challenge of packaging waste while also offering a unique pathway for innovation and discovery.”

In addition to this partnership, The Coca-Cola Company has set a global goal to recover and recycle the equivalent of 100 percent of its bottles and cans in the marketplace. Both initiatives are helping to ensure the sustainability of Coca-Cola packaging across the entire supply chain.

Understanding that innovative technical and product solutions alone won’t fix the systemic waste issues of today’s to-go cups, NextGen Consortium’s efforts go beyond the Challenge and accelerator. Members have funded a three-year commitment to work across the value chain to commercialize new cups, address infrastructure challenges, identify opportunities for market demand, and engage consumers.

“By investing in and supporting recovery infrastructure systems, the NextGen Consortium can advance the economically viable recovery of cups, and ensure that consumers understand what to do to keep their used cups out of landfills and in the value chain,” said Kate Daly, executive director, Closed Loop Partners’ Center for the Circular Economy. Read her post on Medium.

Learn more about the NexGen Challenge and Closed Loop Partners here.