Six Companies Graduate from the NextGen Circular Business Accelerator Ready to Scale Their Sustainable Cup Solutions

The NextGen Consortium, a pre-competitive collaboration managed by Closed Loop Partners in partnership with Starbucks and McDonald’s, accelerates towards a more circular cup system.

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September 25 – NextGen Consortium Partners, investors, and other stakeholders convened during Climate Week in New York City for a Demo Day in which six participants in the NextGen Circular Business Accelerator showcased their manufacture-ready prototypes and pitch-ready business plans for growing their sustainable cup solutions.

The Accelerator follows Closed Loop Partners’ announcement of 12 NextGen Cup Challenge winners in February 2019. Six winning teams entered the NextGen Circular Business Accelerator, launched in partnership with global design firm IDEO to help companies further refine their cup solutions through rapid learning and iteration. The diverse solutions include cutting-edge plant-based materials, new innovative liners for cups, and reusable cup systems that redesign the fiber to-go cup so that it is more widely recoverable or remains in circulation for multiple uses. The six teams participating in the Accelerator are Colombier, CupClub, Footprint, Muuse, RECUP, and SoluBlue.

During the rigorous, six-month Accelerator program, companies accelerated their learnings through live in-context prototyping across four distinct Google campus locations, each housing multiple cafes. Progress for each cup solution was measured across four key categories: customer experience, server experience, performance, and disposal. Companies were able to see first-hand how customers and servers interact with their cups in a restaurant-like environment, capturing real-time feedback in a low-risk setting and identifying areas for refinement.

Companies also visited materials recovery facilities and explored the recovery side of the cup value chain, learning about the systems and infrastructure in place to ensure that their solutions are in alignment. Additionally, companies studied the value of materials recovered post-processing of their cups in order to make the economic case for more circular approaches.

Throughout the Accelerator, companies gained invaluable feedback through direct engagement with NextGen Consortium Partners, including founding partners Starbucks and McDonald’s, supporting partners The Coca-Cola Company, Yum! Brands, Nestlé, and Wendy’s, advisory partner WWF, and innovation partner IDEO. Feedback included insight into what it would take to roll out their solutions at a large scale.

“We are proud of the NextGen collaboration underway with so many companies championing greener cup technologies. We applaud Closed Loop Partners’ continued, on-track progress to determine what’s most viable, and we are excited for our own customers to try greener cups in our stores in the near future.”

John Kelly, senior vice president, Global Public Affairs & Social Impact at Starbucks

The companies were also welcomed behind the scenes of a McDonald’s restaurant to better understand how cups work within a store’s layout and staff operations.

“We were thrilled to have participants in the NextGen Circular Business Accelerator experience. Having these next gen solutions in our restaurants to see first-hand how our crew members manage through our restaurant operations is an important step. Compatibility with the fast pace of a QSR setting is critical, and it was great to see Accelerator teams jump at the opportunity to better understand these in-restaurant conditions. These cup solutions are helping shape the future of packaging, and we want to set them up for success while keeping valuable materials in circulation and, importantly, out of landfills and our oceans.”

Marion Gross, Senior Vice President and Chief Supply Chain Officer, McDonald’s USA

“Seeing how far participants in the NextGen Circular Business Accelerator have come is truly rewarding. The NextGen Consortium will continue to work with winning teams to ensure that when their solutions do enter market at scale they’re set up for success and recoverability.“

Kate Daly, Managing Director of the Center for the Circular Economy at Closed Loop Partners

The other six winners of the NextGen Cup Challenge, which are later-stage in their development, are working with the NextGen Consortium to identify in-market piloting opportunities in regions across the globe. Some participants in the NextGen Circular Business Accelerator are also expected to announce in-store pilots as early as 2020.

The Cup Challenge and the NextGen Circular Business Accelerator are just one part of the NextGen Consortium’s efforts to address single-use food packaging waste globally by advancing the design, commercialization, and recovery of food packaging alternatives. The Consortium is also focused on infrastructure and consumer engagement, supported by stakeholder collaboration across the value chain.

“Watching the aggregation of innovative ideas turn into real progress has been exciting to watch. Now we’ll look to the members of the NextGen Consortium to take these solutions into the marketplace and watch real change happen.”

Erin Simon, Director, Sustainability R&D, World Wildlife Fund

About NextGen

Each year, an estimated 250 billion fiber to-go cups are distributed worldwide. Most of these are not recyclable or compostable. The NextGen Consortium and Cup Challenge launched in 2018 to bring together entrepreneurs, industry, and recyclers to identify and commercialize the next generation of recyclable and/or compostable cups. Closed Loop Partners, Starbucks, McDonald’s, The Coca-Cola Company, Yum! Brands, Nestlé and Wendy’s invite the industry to join this effort to identify a global solution to this shared challenge.

About Closed Loop Partners

Closed Loop Partners is an investment firm that invests in sustainable consumer goods, recycling, and the development of the circular economy. Investors include many of the world’s largest consumer goods companies and family offices interested in investments that provide strong financial returns and tangible social impact.  In 2018, Closed Loop Partners launched the Center for the Circular Economy, a New York City-based collaboration center for innovators to commercialize products, services, and technologies that are leading the transition from a linear take, make, waste economy to a restorative one in which materials are shared, re-used, and continuously cycled. Learn more at

About McDonald’s

McDonald’s is the world’s leading global foodservice retailer with over 37,000 locations in over 100 countries. Over 90 percent of McDonald’s restaurants worldwide are owned and operated by independent local business men and women. This year McDonald’s announced a series of commitments demonstrating how it will use its Scale for Good to positively impact the planet and the communities it serves. You can read more about McDonald’s Scale for Good initiatives here.

About Starbucks

Since 1971, Starbucks Coffee Company has been committed to ethically sourcing and roasting high-quality arabica coffee. Today, with stores around the globe, the company is the premier roaster and retailer of specialty coffee in the world. Through our unwavering commitment to excellence and our guiding principles, we bring the unique Starbucks Experience to life for every customer through every cup. To share in the experience, please visit us in our stores or online at or

NextGen Consortium Partners

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