The Recycling Partnership Announces Three Grants to Improve Polypropylene Curbside Recycling for Millions of Americans


March 31, 2021

Polypropylene Recycling Coalition brings total awards to nearly $3 million in grants, impacting 7.2 million people nationally

FALLS CHURCH, Va.March 31, 2021 — The Recycling Partnership today announced a second round of grant funding through its Polypropylene Recycling Coalition, distributing nearly $1 million in catalytic grants to advance polypropylene recycling in the U.S. Launched in July 2020, the Polypropylene Recycling Coalition (Coalition) is a cross-industry collaboration supported by steering committee members Keurig Dr Pepper, Braskem, NextGen Consortium, and the Walmart Foundation, along with other members of the polypropylene value chain. Polypropylene, sometimes referred to as No. 5 plastic, is used in an array of food and non-food packaging and is in strong demand as a recycled material.

Through its second round of grant funding, the Coalition will provide an additional three grants to Materials Recovery Facilities (MRFs) across the United States to boost sortation of polypropylene and support targeted consumer education efforts. To date, the Coalition has awarded grants for seven MRFs across the U.S. These investments aim to improve curbside polypropylene recycling access for an additional 3% of all U.S. households, impacting a total of 7.2 million people nationally. This aims to increase the recovery of polypropylene by an estimated 4,300 tons annually to be made into new products, such as consumer packaging and automotive parts, rather than being sent to landfills or incineration.

“The Polypropylene Recycling Coalition is leading the effort to rapidly drive meaningful, measurable change that will improve and increase the capture of polypropylene in U.S. curbside recycling. We continue to encourage all companies that use polypropylene to join us in being part of the solution to ensure greater and better capture of this recyclable material,” said Sarah Dearman, Vice President of Circular Ventures, The Recycling Partnership. “This fast, meaningful, and collaborative work will support jobs, preserve natural resources, and help support the transition to a circular economy in the United States.”

The Coalition awards grants to MRF candidates that face significant challenges in their ability to effectively sort and recycle polypropylene. With these strategic investments, polypropylene will now be accepted curbside in more communities and sent to established end markets, encouraging the shift to a circular economy. Further supporting the shift, community members in these areas will also be educated as to what is and isn’t accepted in their curbside recycling.

The three newest grantees include:

  • American Recycling in Candler, North Carolina
  • DEM-CON in Shakopee, Minnesota
  • Independent Texas Recyclers in Houston, Texas


The combined geographic reach of the first two rounds of grantees includes MRFs across the Northern, Southern, Eastern, and Western regions of the U.S. The widespread interest and commitment from MRFs across the U.S. to growing the collection and sortation of recyclable polypropylene clearly demonstrates the market strength for this material nationwide.

The Coalition received a strong response to both the first and second rounds of requests for proposals and continues to accept grant applications to further its efforts to advance polypropylene curbside recycling. The next grant proposal request is due June 30, 2021. MRFs interested in sorting and recycling polypropylene are encouraged to apply.

The mission-driven work of the Coalition is supported by contributions from organizations representing all segments of the material’s value chain, including the Coalition’s newest member, Sabert Corporation. In addition to the aforementioned steering committee members, other members of the Coalition include American Chemistry Council, Campbell Soup Company, Danone North America, EFS-plastics, The Kroger Co. Zero Hunger | Zero Waste Foundation, KW Plastics, LyondellBasell, Merlin Plastics, Milliken & Company, Nestlé, PolyQuest, Procter & Gamble, St. Joseph Plastics, and WinpakThe Polypropylene Recycling Coalition is advised by industry leaders including: Association of Plastic Recyclers, former EPA Administrator Carol Browner, Closed Loop Partners, Sidewalk Infrastructure Partners, Sustainable Packaging Coalition, and World Wildlife Fund.

The Coalition is part of The Recycling Partnership’s Pathway to Circularity, an initiative creating scalable solutions to packaging and system challenges to accelerate the shift to a circular economy that uses fewer finite resources.

To learn more about the Polypropylene Recycling Coalition, its members, and how to get involved in supporting its goals, visit For MRFs interested in applying for a grant, the application is available on our website.

About The Recycling Partnership
The Recycling Partnership is the action agent transforming the U.S. residential recycling system for good. Our team operates at every level of the recycling value chain and work on the ground with thousands of communities to transform underperforming recycling programs and tackle circular economy challenges. As the leading organization in the country that engages the full recycling supply chain, from working with companies to make their packaging more circular and help them meet climate and sustainability goals, to working with government to develop policy solutions to address the systemic needs of the U.S. recycling system, The Recycling Partnership positively impacts recycling at every step in the process. Since 2014, the nonprofit change agent diverted 230 million pounds of new recyclables from landfills, saved 465 million gallons of water, avoided more than 250,000 metric tons of greenhouse gases, and drove significant reductions in targeted contamination rates. Learn more at

About the NextGen Consortium

The NextGen Consortium is a multi-year, global consortium that addresses single-use food packaging waste globally by advancing the design, commercialization, and recovery of food packaging alternatives. The NextGen Consortium is managed by Closed Loop Partners’ Center for the Circular Economy. Starbucks and McDonald’s are the founding partners of the Consortium, The Coca-Cola Company, Yum! Brands, Nestlé, Wendy’s and Jacobs Douwe Egberts are supporting partners. World Wildlife Fund (WWF) is the advisory partner and IDEO is the innovation partner. Learn more at

Media Contact:
Samantha Kappalman
[email protected] 
(443) 223-3322

SOURCE The Recycling Partnership

Closed Loop Partners Releases Groundbreaking Report on the Pathway to Scale for Reusable Packaging Models


January 14, 2021

Closed Loop Partners, IDEO and the NextGen Consortium share learnings from multiple pilots of smart, modern reusable cup systems that eliminate waste 

Read the full report

January 14, New York – Today, the Center for the Circular Economy at Closed Loop Partners released a first-of-its-kind report, charting the way forward for durable reusable packaging systems that reduce the need for single-use packaging. In the report, Bringing Reusable Packaging Systems to Life, the investment firm and innovation center draw on insights from multiple reusable cup pilots conducted in partnership with the NextGen Consortium and IDEO, outlining key lessons learned and sharing a blueprint and open-source resource to encourage collaboration and the growth of reuse models.

Global waste has reached a tipping point, with plastic waste entering the ocean at a rate of 11 million metric tons a year, microplastics found atop Mount Everest and now even in the food we consume. Consumers, regulators and advocacy groups are increasingly clamoring for change, and reuse models offer a promising pathway forward. These solutions extend the use and lifespan of valuable materials, moving us away from a take, make, waste model of material use toward a more circular economy. 

“Reuse models are a critical tool in the fight against plastic waste, and brands and retailers are increasingly exploring them as a viable waste reduction strategy,” says Kate Daly, Managing Director of the Center for the Circular Economy at Closed Loop Partners. “Reusable packaging and cups are just the beginning; refill, resale and rental models that keep materials in circulation are poised to reinvent all kinds of product formats and industries. The future for reuse is bright, and now we need to work collaboratively toward it.” 

Closed Loop Partners convened the NextGen Consortium, with founding partners Starbucks and McDonald’s, among others, to address the world’s single-use food packaging waste by advancing the design, commercialization and recovery of packaging alternatives––starting with the hot and cold, to-go fiber cup system. Through the efforts of the NextGen Consortium, robust testing, funding and scaling of reusable cup models have been underway. Most recently, the Consortium ran pilots with NextGen Cup Challenge winners, CupClub and Muuse, across clusters of local cafes in the City of San Francisco and City of Palo Alto, CA.

Before scaling any system, proof of concept and rigorous testing is essential. NextGen’s pilots have validated a sustained and methodical approach to innovating and testing reuse models, surfacing critical inputs and considerations for scale––applicable beyond just cups. These include engaging diverse stakeholders, making sustainable material choices, selecting appropriate locations, choosing the right payment model and optimizing health and safety protocols. Ultimately, reuse models must provide a seamless, convenient experience for companies and customers.

“McDonald’s cups are an iconic part of the customer experience and can serve as a key gateway to increasing circular systems for our restaurants,” says Marion Gross, Chief Supply Chain Officer, North America, McDonald’s. “We remain committed to meaningful collaboration and solutions that will reduce waste and impact change at scale.” 

“Now is the perfect moment to design, implement and scale reuse models, as technological developments, regulatory pressures and consumer demand for eco-friendly alternatives converge,” says Chris Krohn, Project Lead, IDEO. “Piloting the reusable packaging models helps us better design a system that works for all.”   

“With single-use packaging volumes on the rise amidst the pandemic, safe and hygienic reuse models are critical to addressing the urgent issue,” says Erin Simon, Head, Plastic Waste and Business, World Wildlife Fund. “The NextGen Consortium’s reusable cup pilots are critical for providing the necessary data and understanding to advance these kinds of models as a whole and reduce waste.”  

“Changing mindsets and offering consumers reuse options must be part of our efforts to end plastic pollution once and for all,” says Kristin Hughes, Director of the Global Plastic Action Partnership, the platform for accelerating plastic pollution and waste action at the World Economic Forum. “It is crucial and very exciting to see innovative models being tried and tested on the ground by the NextGen Consortium and others.”

Beyond its work with the NextGen Consortium, Closed Loop Partners invests in and explores various other applications for reuse models. One example is the firm’s investment in Algramo, a startup solving economic and environmental issues through its vending machines that dispense staple products, such as household cleaners, “by the gram.” Continued experimentation, investment and collaboration are needed to further scale reuse models, and we work with diverse stakeholders across the value chain––from corporate partners to cities to environmental NGOs––to advance their growth and realize their full potential. 


About Closed Loop Partners

Closed Loop Partners is a New York-based investment firm comprised of venture capital, growth equity, private equity and project finance, as well as an innovation center focused on building the circular economy.

The firm has built an ecosystem that connects entrepreneurs, industry experts, global consumer goods and technology companies, retailers, financial institutions and municipalities. Their investments align capitalism with positive social and environmental impact by reducing waste and greenhouse gas emissions via materials innovation, advanced recycling technologies, supply chain optimization and diversion of materials from landfill.


About NextGen Consortium

The NextGen Consortium is a multi-year, global consortium that addresses single-use food packaging waste globally by advancing the design, commercialization, and recovery of food packaging alternatives. The NextGen Consortium is managed by Closed Loop Partners’ Center for the Circular Economy. Starbucks and McDonald’s are the founding partners of the Consortium, The Coca-Cola Company, Yum! Brands, Nestlé, Wendy’s and Jacobs Douwe Egberts are supporting partners. World Wildlife Fund (WWF) is the advisory partner and IDEO is the innovation partner. Learn more at


Two Georgia-Pacific Recycled Paper Mills Open Opportunities for Paper Cup Recycling

By Georgia Pacific

September 15, 2020

ATLANTA, Sept. 15, 2020 /PRNewswire/ — Georgia-Pacific announced today that it is now accepting mixed paper bales that contain single-use polyethylene (PE)-coated paper cups at its recycled paper mills in Green Bay, Wisconsin, and Muskogee, Oklahoma. The development follows two years of partnership with the Foodservice Packaging Institute (FPI) and collaboration with the NextGen Consortium, a global initiative led by Closed Loop Partners with founding partners Starbucks and McDonald’s, to help open opportunities for paper cup recycling.

PE coatings, along with any remaining liquid and food left behind from use, have historically left single-use paper cups out of the recovery and recycling process. Georgia-Pacific, though, has proven through its extensive re-pulping trials that the Green Bay and Muskogee mills can effectively recapture valuable cup fiber from paper cups while screening out PE-coatings and reuse the fiber to make toilet tissue, napkins and paper towels.

“As single-use paper cups have grown in popularity in recent years so, too, has paper cup waste. As a leading manufacturer of paper foodservice products, we continually look for ways to consume fewer resources as part of our longer-term strategy to identify solutions that benefit society. Accepting mixed paper bales containing PE-coated cups at our Green Bay and Muskogee mills is a significant step in this direction,” said John Mulcahy, vice president of sustainability for Georgia-Pacific, which manufactures the Dixie® brand of paper cups.

Kate Daly, managing director of the Center for the Circular Economy at Closed Loop Partners, believes Georgia-Pacific’s new repulping capability will greatly benefit the foodservice industry and further advance the industry’s environmental stewardship. “We are heartened to see Georgia-Pacific accelerate paper cup recycling through its acceptance of cups in mixed paper bales. This acceptance will also benefit new non-polyethylene next generation cups, marking an important step forward for the industry as a whole, and we hope even more mills will follow this lead. Georgia-Pacific’s actions reinforce the value of the materials in paper cups and build critical markets for recycled materials. As the managing partner of the NextGen Consortium, we continue to work with leaders like Georgia-Pacific to engage, educate, and collaborate with stakeholders across the cup value chain in order to keep valuable materials in play,” she said.

Beyond its current repulping efforts, Georgia-Pacific is also collaborating with the NextGen Consortium to trial at its mills next generation paper cups that have replaced the PE-coating with materials that can be recycled and/or composted. As founding partners of the NextGen Consortium and strong advocates of reducing single-use paper cup waste, McDonald’s and Starbucks are supportive of ongoing collaboration with Georgia-Pacific and encouraged by the company’s current re-repulping efforts.

“Increasing and improving the recyclability of cups is a vital part of our work within the NextGen Consortium. We are taking a meaningful step forward with Georgia-Pacific toward our goal of reducing paper cup waste. We’re excited by this progress and look forward to our continued partnership with organizations that support our vision of a resource-positive future,” said Michael Kobori, chief sustainability officer at Starbucks.

Marion Gross, chief supply chain officer, North America with McDonald’s added, “Recovering, recycling, and reusing the valuable materials in our cups is an important part of our sustainability ambition and our work with the NextGen Consortium. By accepting and reprocessing single-use cups, Georgia-Pacific is not only enhancing recycling pathways but also generating a supply pipeline of recycled content critical to positively impacting the environment and achieving our goals.”

With its Green Bay and Muskogee mills now engaged, Georgia-Pacific is working with FPI to expand and accelerate single-use PE-coated paper cup acceptance in curbside recycling programs in an effort to increase the number of households that can recycle the paper cups. As the voice of the foodservice packaging industry, FPI is committed to reducing the impact of its products on the environment and to advancing recycling and composting. “We are thrilled to work with Georgia-Pacific in its effort to recover and reuse PE-coated paper cups, and we are excited to partner with new communities that previously didn’t have the capability to recycle them,” said Natha Dempsey, president of FPI.

About Foodservice Packaging Institute
Founded in 1933, the Foodservice Packaging Institute is the trade association for the foodservice packaging industry in North America. FPI promotes the value and benefits of foodservice packaging and serves as the industry’s leading authority to educate and influence stakeholders. Members include raw material and machinery suppliers, manufacturers, distributors and purchasers of foodservice packaging. For more information or to follow us on social media, visit

About NextGen Consortium
The NextGen Consortium is a multi-year, global consortium that addresses single-use food packaging waste globally by advancing the design, commercialization, and recovery of food packaging alternatives. The NextGen Consortium is managed by Closed Loop Partners’ Center for the Circular Economy. Starbucks and McDonald’s are the founding partners of the Consortium, The Coca-Cola Company, Yum! Brands, Nestlé, and Wendy’s are supporting partners. The World Wildlife Fund (WWF) is the advisory partner and IDEO is the innovation partner. Learn more at

About Georgia-Pacific
Based in Atlanta, Georgia-Pacific and its subsidiaries are among the world’s leading manufacturers and marketers of bath tissue, paper towels and napkins, tableware, paper-based packaging, cellulose, specialty fibers, nonwoven fabrics, building products and related chemicals. Our familiar consumer brands include Quilted Northern®, Angel Soft®, Brawny®, Dixie®, enMotion®, Sparkle®, Mardi Gras® and Vanity Fair®. Georgia-Pacific has long been a leading supplier of building products to lumber and building materials dealers and large do-it-yourself warehouse retailers. Its Georgia-Pacific Recycling subsidiary is among the world’s largest recyclers of paper, metal and plastics. The company operates more than 150 facilities and employs more than 30,000 people directly and creates approximately 89,000 jobs indirectly. For more information, visit:

SOURCE Georgia-Pacific

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Bringing NextGen Cups to Market: It Takes a Village

By Closed Loop Partners & IDEO

June 29, 2020

The NextGen Consortium is a global initiative convened by Closed Loop Partners’ Center for the Circular Economy. Starbucks and McDonald’s are founding partners of the Consortium, together with supporting partners The Coca-Cola Company, Yum! Brands, Nestlé and Wendy’s, as well as WWF as an advisory partner. IDEO is the Consortium’s innovation partner.

Local cafes, cities and students joined the NextGen Consortium’s collaborative efforts to advance reusable, recyclable and compostable cup solutions in pilots across the San Francisco Bay Area earlier this year.

Two years ago, the NextGen Consortium asked innovators: “How might we design the next generation fiber cup to be recoverable on a global scale, while maintaining the performance standards we know and trust?” From the start, we knew that our ability to successfully address the systemic challenge of cup waste would require strong collaboration across the entire cup ecosystem – from brands, suppliers and innovators, to municipalities, materials recovery facilities and mills, to advocacy groups and nonprofits, to the broader public. And we’ve been collaborating with these essential stakeholders, and others, ever since.

The NextGen Consortium serves as a collaborative platform for larger brands looking to move the needle on sustainability. By working together we’re one step closer to finding long term solutions, quicker than we would on our own — Jessica Marshall, Sustainability at McDonald’s

The Consortium’s journey began with the NextGen Cup Challenge —an open call for sustainable cup solutions that resulted in nearly 500 submissions from more than 50 countries. Twelve Cup Challenge winners were given the opportunity to enter the NextGen Circular Business Accelerator or the Advanced Solutions cohort; programs aimed at further developing the select winning cup companies – bringing them closer to pilot and market-readiness. And in early 2020 we launched The NextGen Pilot Readiness Program, a series of live, in-market pilots in the San Francisco Bay Area to further test and refine promising reusable and single-use solutions in surrounding local cafes.

We’re excited to keep learning, testing and exploring new cup technologies with the NextGen Consortium. The collaboration between companies, innovators and stakeholders is critical in our journey to find, and bring to scale, a more sustainable cup. — Chris McFarlane, Project Manager at Starbucks

NextGen Pilot Teams

CupClub: A returnable cup ecosystem, providing a service for drinks. Think bike sharing, but for cups.
Muuse : A deposit-based platform for smart, reusable beverage packaging, connecting their cups—and third party products—to Internet of Things technologies.
Footprint: Fully formed fiber-based cups, lids and straws with an aqueous-based coating that is recyclable and compostable.
PTT MCC Biochem: Recyclable cups with an innovative, bio-based BioPBS™ coating that makes the cup certified for compost in an industrial compost facility.

The Consortium’s pilots took place across multiple clusters of local cafes in San Francisco, Palo Alto, and Oakland. We evaluated cups and cup systems on their technical feasibility, business viability, user desirability, and systemic circularity. And, through it all, the collaborative spirit came to the fore as the critical ingredient for success.

Tackling a challenge as complex and massive as global cup waste requires a multitude of stakeholders—and it’s important to activate them from the start in order to advance the entire ecosystem. The pilots’ success hinged on collaborative municipalities (San Francisco, Palo Alto, Oakland), local neighborhood associations and universities eager to drive awareness, willing and excited local cafes to help establish a network effect of pick up and drop-off points, curious customers to experiment with new habits and an engaged media to drive awareness. After engaging all of these stakeholders and putting the cups to the test in local cafes, what did we learn?

Customer and Barista Insights Drive Rapid Iterations
Every minute counts when it comes to encouraging the uptake of reusable cup systems. And every user engagement offers a valuable opportunity for feedback. Customers have to sign up to a mobile app to log their cup, navigate the payment process, receive their beverage and ultimately return their cup to either a cafe or a drop-off point. Each step of this journey impacts their perception of reusable cups. For example, customer satisfaction was higher when there was a lost cup fee rather than an upfront deposit, and customers breathed easy after an alert confirmed a successful cup return. Similarly, baristas provided vital feedback. Even a simple verbal prompt asking customers whether they’d “like their order in a reusable cup” increased interest and engagement. These insights, alongside the experimentation mindset that characterized the pilots, enabled teams to rapidly prototype and improve according to key learnings.

Different Local Cafes Banded Together to form Clusters for the Pilots
Clusters are areas where 5 or more stores are located within a 5-minute walk. This walk, or the “pedestrian shed,” is considered the distance people are willing to walk before opting to use transit instead. Cup drop-off points work best when along a customer’s existing route. Local cafes including Coupa Cafe, Verve Coffee Roasters, Andytown, and Equator Coffees formed clusters, opened up their retail locations and helped lay the groundwork for the Pilot rollouts. During the pilots we saw some cups distributed at one cafe and returned to another. To hit a critical mass of users and truly scale reusable cup systems, support for this kind of behavior is imperative. It is also highly complex and requires honing and thoughtful planning as well as collaboration across multiple brands.

A cluster of local cafes and drop-off points


City Governments, Universities and NGOs Played a Critical Role in Galvanizing Momentum
Usership, especially early on, is directly tied to awareness. Data is most informative at higher volumes. The City of Palo Alto’s Zero Waste team was instrumental in identifying retail partners for the Pilot and educating their network, including zero waste leads in neighborhoods, about the pilots. The City of San Francisco’s Department of the Environment team was also engaged and eager to learn more about reusable cup solutions, especially in the face of proposed regulations and ordinances. The non-profit organization UPSTREAM made key introductions to city officials and shared essential information regarding upcoming ordinances and policies. The network effect is real. By engaging these organizations and their respective communities, our reach multiplied, attracting more pilot participants, thus gathering more data to optimize systems and prepare for the mass market.

The success of the pilots was built on the foundations of collaboration, which engaged diverse stakeholders and enabled agile and quick responses to feedback. COVID-19 brought unforeseen challenges and intensified the question, how can we maintain customer trust with reusable cups? Throughout the pilots, the reusable solutions adhered to rigorous washing protocols, including one team utilizing an off-site industrial facility to ensure the strictest hygiene standards were maintained. The pandemic has further emphasized the importance of sanitation and health, and the critical need to communicate these elements effectively to customers.

Moving forward, collaboration among diverse stakeholders is essential to ensure that innovative new systems of consumption can bring convenience and delight, while reducing the environmental footprint of our daily habits. The NextGen Consortium will continue to work with the Cup Challenge winners, as well as other promising cup innovations, to advance their solutions, while simultaneously strengthening and building the cup recovery ecosystem as a whole. This includes exploring new processes and working with waste collectors, materials recovery facilities, municipalities, and paper mills, among others, to explore the opportunities around cup recycling and composting. Our pilots in the San Francisco Bay Area provided invaluable feedback on how we can collectively enhance the drinking experience in a way that stakeholders (and the environment) can feel good about. And we’re excited to continue to accelerate the future of more sustainable cups.

CupClub’s Cup Chariot in action on Stanford University’s campus

The Journey to Innovate How We Drink on the Go: 2 Years into the NextGen Consortium

By Bridget Croke, Closed Loop Partners

February 20, 2020

Reuse Cups

This week, we hit a major milestone nearly two years after we launched the NextGen Consortium, our multi-year journey to solve for the waste associated with to-go cups: four of the winners of the NextGen Cup Challenge are piloting their solutions in cafes in the Bay Area.

After a six-month innovation challenge that identified 12 promising sustainable cup solutions out of hundreds of submissions, the hard work began to help innovators scale their solutions to address the global waste challenge while creating an equal or better customer experience. A six-month Accelerator provided six winning companies with mentorship, networking, and exposure to the end-of-use recovery systems their solutions need to navigate. And this week we are thrilled to start putting some of those cups to the test in the real world.

Two winning reusable cup innovators from the NextGen Cup Challenge — CupClub and Muuse — will start piloting their “smart” cup systems in Palo Alto and San Francisco respectively over the coming weeks. While Muuse is piloting a cup made of stainless steel, CupClub is using a cup made of polypropylene, demonstrating the diversity of material solutions out there. Footprint and PTT MCC Biochem Company Limited will also begin piloting their recyclable and compostable fiber cup solutions this month.

The beginning of this journey in 2018 coincided with a time when the movement to stop waste generated by single-use packaging began to take hold. We launched a Consortium to leverage the power of the world’s biggest food and beverage brands (Starbucks, McDonald’s, Taco Bell, KFC, Pizza Hut, Wendy’s, The Coca Cola Company, and Nestlé are all partners in the NextGen Consortium) and to create a market signal to drive scalable solutions for recyclable and compostable cups. And while expanding the recycling of food packaging is still a critical and primary focus of this ambitious endeavor, the dark horse in this race has been reusable and refillable cup systems.

We are seeing a growing demand from consumers and policy makers – and therefore an opportunity for brands – to completely rethink how we deliver products. And eliminating the need for single-use packaging in the first place is part of the suite of tools that can reduce waste and climate impact. From “naked” stores with no packaging to tech-enabled reusable packaging that tracks and recirculates items, sometimes with a consumer incentive, these models are growing. And cups are the next frontier, with a goal of making reusable cups as convenient as single-use. With these emerging cup models, consumers can simply get a cup at the cafe, drop it off at drop spots around the city or return them to the cafe for their next use. Companies like CupClub, Muuse, ReCup and others also work with the cafes and/or offsite washing facilities to collect and sanitize the cups.

Designing reuse models that can work in the complex ecosystems of a Starbucks or McDonald’s and creating an optimal customer experience across the US is no small task. Our testing and pilots over the last year have helped us identify pitfalls that have made past ideas fail. Innovation is a messy, iterative process and often failure leads to learnings, and learnings lead to success. Through the public-facing pilots launching this week, we are testing the cup’s technical feasibility, business model viability, user desirability and circular resiliency, among other things.

Lessons learned from these trials will be shared with NextGen Consortium partners, further honing and testing their systems to bridge the gap between prototyping and in-market testing and broader rollouts.

We see a bright future for pioneers in the reuse revolution like NextGen Cup winners CupClub, Muuse, and ReCup. We are equally excited to watch the innovation flood gates open thanks to the market signal created by the global brands in the NextGen Consortium coming together to find new solutions. We are seeing an unprecedented number of promising market entrants in reusable cup models. While we don’t yet know which models or businesses will be able to meet the operational needs and scale of today’s marketplaces, we know that the NextGen Consortium has been successful at bringing talent to the table. Just as ride-sharing, e-commerce and smart-devices have disrupted legacy business models that had dominated for many years, beverage containers and cups are ripe for the new models that help us improve the drinking experience without the negative consequences of today’s throwaway culture.

To advance the circular economy, we need the space to make and learn from mistakes and to bring together unlikely bedfellows to enable systems change. Today, we are at a tipping point, with an increased sense of urgency to address the global crises of climate change, ocean plastic pollution, and waste. We have the building blocks to scale a solution for cups, and can leverage and build upon the NextGen model to design out waste. First up it’s the cup, but the opportunities for pushing the bounds of sustainable design are endless.

NextGen Consortium Begins Piloting Sustainable Cup Solutions in San Francisco Bay Area

By Closed Loop Partners

February 18, 2020

Local cafes join the Consortium’s efforts to advance reusable, recyclable and/or compostable cup solutions in select pilots

SAN FRANCISCOFeb. 18, 2020 /PRNewswire/ — Today, the NextGen Consortium — a multi-year consortium that addresses single-use food packaging waste globally by advancing the design, commercialization and recovery of food packaging alternatives — announced the launch of reusable cup pilots in local cafes in the City of San Francisco and City of Palo Alto, CA.

Two of the 12 NextGen Cup Challenge winners – CupClub and Muuse – will pilot their respective “smart” reusable cup systems in open environments across clusters of local cafes on a rolling basis over the coming weeks. Live piloting offers these cup companies the opportunity to further test, learn and innovate according to the unique material, technical and operational changes necessary to facilitate a seamless and convenient transition to reusable cups for customers and companies. The size and complexity of the pilots, along with the customer feedback and data captured during them, will provide valuable insights into each cup’s technical feasibility, business viability, user desirability and circular resiliency. Alongside participating local cafes, the City of Palo Alto will be hosting cup drop off points in a number of civic buildings downtown and the City of San Francisco has helped to facilitate connections with local businesses.

Scaling the next generation cup won’t happen overnight; the cup system is complex and calls for multiple layers of testing. From the ability for baristas and customers to handle cups with ease, to alignment with diverse waste recovery systems after-use, testing is key. Reusable cup systems will need to be cost-competitive, integrate smoothly across diverse operations and technology platforms, minimize operational disruption, and have a positive impact on the environment and meet the convenience and performance standards customers know and trust in order to scale.

These pilots build on the NextGen Consortium’s work to advance the development of new, alternative cup solutions through the necessary iterative loops of innovation and testing before scaling. Additionally, in March, two NextGen Cup Challenge winners — Footprint LLC and PTT MCC Biochem Company Limited — will also begin pilots in cafes in Oakland, testing their single-use cup solutions that pioneer alternative materials for cups and cup liners that are recyclable and/or compostable. These ensure that the valuable materials in cups are kept in circulation and out of landfills and the natural environment.

The NextGen Consortium is managed by Closed Loop Partners’ Center for the Circular Economy. Starbucks and McDonald’s are founding partners, with The Coca-Cola Company, Yum! Brands, Nestlé and Wendy’s as supporting partners, The World Wildlife Fund as the advisory partner and global design firm IDEO as the innovation partner. IDEO is designing and running the pilots in the San Francisco Bay Area on behalf of the NextGen Consortium.

“We know finding a more sustainable cup solution will continue to require partnership and innovative thinking,” says Michael Kobori, Chief Sustainability Officer at Starbucks. “The ongoing work from the NextGen Cup Consortium provides valuable insights and learnings for all the members, us included, as we continue to explore a variety of ways to better manage our waste and reduce our environmental footprint.”

“We’re excited to see many of the winning ideas become potential solutions that can be tested in a customer-facing environment,” says Marion Gross, Senior Vice President and Chief Supply Chain Officer, McDonald’s North America. “Finding a cup that can be scaled will require continued innovation, testing and honing of solutions, so these pilots are an important step forward on that journey.”

Together, the NextGen Consortium’s unprecedented collective of brands are helping to shape the ultimate form these cup innovations will take in the world. “As we strive to build a more circular economy in which we design out waste, unique partnerships are essential,” says Kate Daly, Managing Director at Closed Loop Partners. “Our work to engage diverse stakeholders, from brands to universities to NGOs, ensures that we create the necessary robust testing framework to help these cup teams succeed.”

These pilots represent one important initiative within the broader work of the NextGen Consortium to create long-lasting, positive change across the cup system. The NextGen Consortium takes a systems view, pairing upstream product innovation with downstream recovery infrastructure. The Consortium brings together leading food and beverage companies to work together pre-competitively to identify and scale solutions that work for the whole industry.

Participating Local Cafes

Reusable Cup Pilots: Palo Alto, CA


  • Coupa Cafe:
    • Ramona
      • 538 Ramona St, Palo Alto, CA
    • Lytton
      • 111 Lytton Ave, Palo Alto, CA
    • GSB
      • 655 Knight Way, Stanford, CA
    • Green Library
      • 571 Escondido Mall, Stanford, CA 94301
  • Verve Coffee Roasters
    • 162 University Ave, Palo Alto, CA 94301


  • Cafe Venetia (drop point only):
    • 419 University Ave, Palo Alto, CA 94301
  • City of Palo Alto (drop point only):
    • City of Palo Alto City Hall
      • 250 Hamilton Ave, Palo Alto, CA 94301
  • Coupa Cafe Y2E2 (drop point only):
    • 473 Via Ortega, Stanford, CA

Reusable Cup Pilots: San Francisco, CA


  • Andytown Coffee Roasters
    • 181 Fremont St, San Francisco
  • Ritual Coffee Roasters
    • 432b Octavia St, San Francisco
  • Equator Coffees
    • 222 2nd St, San Francisco, CA 94105
  • La Boulangerie de San Francisco, Hayes
    • 500 Hayes St, San Francisco, CA 94102

Single-Use Cup Pilots: Oakland, CA

Footprint LLC:

  • Red Bay Coffee
    • 3098 East 10th Street Oakland, CA 94601
    • 2327 Broadway Oakland, CA 94612
    • 1503 Macdonald Ave Richmond, CA 94801
  • Equator Coffees
    • 175 Bay Pl, Oakland, CA 94610

PTT MCC Biochem Company Limited:

  • Snow White Coffee
    • 3824 Piedmont Ave, Oakland, CA 94611

About NextGen Consortium
The NextGen Consortium is a multi-year, global consortium that addresses single-use food packaging waste globally by advancing the design, commercialization, and recovery of food packaging alternatives. The NextGen Consortium is managed by Closed Loop Partners’ Center for the Circular Economy. Starbucks and McDonald’s are the founding partners of the Consortium, The Coca-Cola Company, Yum! Brands, Nestlé, and Wendy’s are supporting partners. The World Wildlife Fund (WWF) is the advisory partner and IDEO is the innovation partner. Learn more at

About Closed Loop Partners
Closed Loop Partners is a New York based investment firm comprised of venture capital, growth equity, private equity, project finance and an innovation center. The firm invests in the circular economy, a new economic model focused on a profitable and sustainable future. 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

Contact: [email protected]

SOURCE Closed Loop Partners

Closed Loop Partners Announces 12 Winners of the NextGen Cup Challenge to Reimagine the Future of the Fiber To-Go Cup

By Closed Loop Partners

February 27, 2019

Starbucks, McDonald’s and other industry leaders partner in pre-competitive collaboration to push the boundaries of sustainable design and find innovative cup solutions

NEW YORKFeb. 27, 2019 /PRNewswire/ — The NextGen Consortium, convened by Closed Loop Partners,  announced today the winners of the NextGen Cup Challenge – an open-sourced, global innovation challenge to redesign the fiber to-go cup and create a widely recyclable and/or compostable cup.

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 the 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.

“This is a notable milestone to achieve our aspiration of sustainable coffee, served sustainably which is a particular passion for our over 350,000 Starbucks partners,” said John Kelly, Senior Vice President of Global Public Affairs and Social Impact at Starbucks. “We’re a founding partner of the NextGen Consortium because we believe it will take the scale and influence of many global companies to make recyclable, compostable to-go cups an industry standard rather than the exception.”

Many of the largest players in the food and beverage industry have united within the NextGen Consortium, making it a unique pre-competitive collaboration. Starbucks and McDonald’s were early investors and founding partners of the NextGen Consortium, with The Coca-Cola Company, Yum! Brands, Nestlé and Wendy’s joining as supporting partners. The World Wildlife Fund acts as an advisory member of the Consortium, and OpenIDEO is an innovation partner. Collectively representing a significant portion of the cups market, these brands are not only demonstrating their commitment to ending cup waste and driving innovation in packaging, but also accelerating the paths to global scale.

“McDonald’s is proud to work with such an unprecedented number of brands to address the issue of fiber to-go cups,” said Marion Gross, Senior Vice President and Chief Supply Chain Officer, McDonald’s USA. “Collaboration is what we need to truly move the needle, amplify impact and bring solutions to scale quickly.”

The NextGen Challenge winner solutions are advancing the transition to a more circular economy where materials are continuously cycled and reliance on raw materials is reduced.  “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,” said Erin Simon, Director, Sustainability R&D, World Wildlife Fund.

Up to six winners will enter the NextGen Circular Business Accelerator, where they’ll gain access to a network of experts, business and technical resources and testing opportunities to ensure these innovations can successfully scale to serve the needs of the industry and maintain the performance standards we know and trust.

The Challenge is just the first stage of the NextGen Consortium’s three-year effort.  Next, the NextGen Circular Business Accelerator, with testing and piloting opportunities, will help solutions get onto the shelf.  Further, the Consortium is working with suppliers, recyclers and composters to ensure that the winning solutions can get successfully recovered for the highest value. The Consortium will work together to support the needs of the recycling and composting system and identify ways to make it easy for consumers to choose the right bin.

“The level of interest we saw in the Challenge demonstrates a real appetite for long-lasting sustainable packaging solutions,” said Kate Daly, Executive Director of the Center for the Circular Economy at Closed Loop Partners. “This level of industry collaboration in support of the NextGen Cup Challenge is really exciting, and we look forward to building on this momentum to encourage more innovative solutions. Fully recoverable fiber to-go cups are just the beginning.”

For more information on the winners, the Challenge and the NextGen Consortium, visit

The 12 Winners of the Challenge
Category One: Innovative Cup Liners
These companies are rethinking the polyethylene plastic liners in cups that can currently make to-go cups difficult to recycle.

  • C.E.E.R. SCHISLERFrance, creates a 100% paper cup that is home compostable and recyclable.
  • Colombier GroupNetherlandsFinland, creates a recyclable and compostable barrier for paperboard cups.
  • Footprint USUSA, creates cups, lids and straws that are fully formed fiber-based solutions, with an aqueous-based coating that is recyclable and compostable.
  • Kotkamills OyFinland, creates plastic-free, recyclable and compostable cupstock material that can be processed into cups at existing cup making machines.
  • PTT MCC Biochem Company LimitedThailand, creates a coated paper cup that is recyclable and home compostable.
  • Solenis LLCUSABelgium, creates a barrier coating that is recyclable and compostable.
  • Sun Chemical CorporationUSA, creates inks and coatings that are recyclable and compostable.
  • WestRock CorporationUSA, creates a recyclable and compostable paperboard solution to cups.

Category Two: New Materials
These companies are using cutting edge, plant-based materials in their cups so that they are compostable.

  • Solublue Ltd., UK, creates plant-based, food grade and non-toxic products that biodegrade after use.

Category Three: 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.

  • CupClub, UK, operates a returnable cup ecosystem, providing a service for drinks. Think bike sharing, but for cups.
  • reCup GmbHGermany, operates a deposit system for reusable cups. Rent their cup and return it to any participating partner shop. No cleaning of the cup or carrying around required.
  • RevolvIndonesiaHong Kong (China), operates a deposit-based platform for smart, reusable beverage packaging, connecting their cups–and third party products–to Internet of Things technologies.


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 Cup Consortium and 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 platform 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

Additional Quotes

“Solving the issue of plastic waste requires collaboration among many different stakeholders,” said Stefan Palzer, Nestlé Chief Technology Officer. “We are excited to join the NextGen Consortium and Cup Challenge as it brings together start-ups, industry partners and suppliers to find an industry wide, global packaging solution for sustainable to-go cups.”

“Yum! Brands would like to congratulate all of the Challenge winners for bringing forward incredible innovation that will help find food packaging solutions for our industry and beyond,” said Jon Hixson, VP Global Government Affairs and Sustainability, Yum! Brands. “The NextGen Consortium provides an amazing platform for collaboration and we look forward to seeing the continued progress that comes from the partnership to drive positive change in the value chain.”

“At Wendy’s, we know that our customers are increasingly aware of packaging waste and its impact on the environment,” said Liliana Esposito, Wendy’s Chief Communications Officer. “We embrace our role as being part of the solution, and one way we do that is to engage in partnerships that help us arrive at smart solutions, like our partnership with the NextGen Consortium. We congratulate the winners in this phase of the NextGen Cup Challenge, and look forward to seeing their ideas come to life and make a difference.”

“It’s encouraging to see such a diverse range of innovative solutions that represent milestones in the journey toward more comprehensive recyclability and compostability of cups across the board,” said Nina Goodrich, Executive Director, GreenBlue and the Sustainable Packaging Coalition. (Nina Goodrich is a judge for the NextGen Cup Challenge)

“It’s great to see the momentum behind the NextGen Cup Challenge coming from a number of large brands,” said Abe Minkara, Managing Director, Mark Cuban Companies. “Together with the innovative winning ideas, the combination is truly powerful. Scaling a sustainable solution to the to-go cup ecosystem becomes not only attainable but inevitable.” (Abe Minkara is a judge for the NextGen Cup Challenge)

“The winners of the NextGen Cup Challenge represent an inventive spectrum of creative chemistry, design and manufacturing technology demonstrating real progress toward the recyclability and compostability of post-consumer cups and containers,” said Scott Seydel,  Board Chair and CEO, The Seydel Companies and Board Trustee of the Ellen MacArthur Foundation US (Scott Seydel is a judge for the NextGen Cup Challenge)

Contact: [email protected]

SOURCE Closed Loop Partners

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