In 2018, we launched the NextGen Cup Challenge, an open, global design competition seeking to identify and commercialize existing and future solutions for the single-use, hot and cold fiber cup system. Students, suppliers, entrepreneurs, designers and businesses were invited to submit their innovative ideas. The winners of the Challenge were announced in February 2019; awardees received a portion of funding up to $1 million.

After a rigorous four-month review process by an esteemed group of judges, including NextGen Consortium business leaders, as well as experts in recycling, composting and packaging, the Challenge narrowed nearly 500 submissions from over 50 countries down to 12 winners.

These 12 winning solutions––broadly categorized into innovative cup liners, new materials and reusable cup service models––have the potential to turn the 250 billion fiber to-go cups used annually from waste into a valuable material in the recycling system.

Category One: Reusable Cup Service Models

The cups made by these companies aren’t single-use, they just keep cycling––remaining in service by harnessing the power of technology and design.

Category Two: Innovative Cup & Cup Liners

These companies are rethinking the polyethylene plastic liners in cups that can currently make to-go cups difficult to recycle.

Category Three: New Materials

These companies are using cutting edge, plant-based materials in their cups so that they are compostable.

“By working across the entire value chain and engaging key stakeholders, winners of the NextGen Cup Challenge are tackling a complex problem in a holistic way, sending valuable material back into the supply chain––benefiting people, the planet, and businesses.”
Erin Simon – Head, Plastic Waste + Business • World Wildlife Fund

Six of the 12 winners joined the NextGen Circular Business Accelerator.

The NextGen Consortium has continued to work with teams that entered the NextGen Circular Business Accelerator, as well as those that didn’t, to help refine their solutions, conduct recyclability and recoverability tests and find pathways to market.

Learn More About the Accelerator

NextGen Challenge Judges

Tim Brown

Executive Chair, IDEO

Nina Goodrich

Executive Director, GreenBlue; Director, Sustainable Packaging Coalition

Allen Langdon

President and CEO, Encorp Pacific, Canada

Abe Minkara

Founding Partner at Legacy Knight: Multi-Family Office (formerly Managing Director, Mark Cuban Companies)

Sébastien Pellion

Head of Social Impact, Glovo (formerly Director of Global Performance and Industrial Customers, Sustainable Development Department at SUEZ)

Dr. Susan Selke

Director, Center for Packing Innovation and Sustainability, College of Agriculture & Natural Resources, Michigan State University

Scott Seydel

Board Chair and CEO, The Seydel Companies and The Chemol Company; Member of the Board of Directors, Ellen MacArthur Foundation, USA

Erin Simon

Head, Plastic Waste + Business and Deputy Director, PSE, Sustainability R&D, WWF


Explore the Archives