Starbucks is ditching plastic straws — and it’s targeting a replacement for wasteful cups next

  • McDonald's has joined the NextGen Cup Consortium and Challenge, donating $5 million to the initiative.
  • Starbucks launched the consortium in March with investment firm Closed Loop Partners, committing $10 million to it.
  • The challenge, which starts in September, asks entrepreneurs, industry experts, recyclers, and other innovators to share their ideas for creating a fully recyclable and compostable cup.

Just four months after Starbucks helped start a challenge for developing fully recyclable and compostable cups, McDonald's has joined the initiative with a $5 million donation.

In March, Starbucks joined forces with investment firm Closed Loop Partners and committed $10 million to launch the NextGen Cup Consortium and Challenge. About 600 billion paper cups are distributed around the world each year, and Starbucks cups account for about 1% of them. 

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Barista Tip #1: Order a latte with chai syrup instead of a dirty chai; it's the same thing without the cost of added espresso shots to a chai latte.
Barista Tip #2: If you have a sore throat, the "cough drop" is a drink almost all baristas will recognize, and it's made with emperors cloud, jade citrus mint, steamed lemonade instead of water, and a pack of honey added (this drink is a lifesaver during the winter months).
Barista Tip #3: Never pay for water; the tap water is always filtered and used in a variety of drinks.
Barista Tip #4: Having iced drinks shaken makes all the difference, especially with an iced green tea latte, so request that your drink is shaken because baristas won't always do it if you don't ask.
Barista Tip #5: Teas come with 1 or 2 tea bags depending on the size (1 for a tall and 2 for a grande and venti), but you can ask for a mix of tea bags in the grande or venti (my personal favorite is mixing ‘Passion Tango’ and ‘Peach Tranquility’).
Barista Tip #6: Try soy milk in any drink (especially a latte or chai latte) instead of regular milk for added vanilla sweetness.
Barista Tip #7: Everything from the pastry section tastes better warmed up, unless it's a pound cake which you cannot order heated.
Barista Tip #8: Ask for a few ice cubes in hot tea/brewed coffee in order to avoid burning your tongue.
Barista Tip #9: Try adding caramelized banana compote (a sauce that normally comes with oatmeal) to a vanilla bean frappuccino.
Barista Tip #10: If you aren't sure of a brew or drink, ask for a sample. If the store isn't busy, they will happy to let you try something before buying.
Barista Tip #11: Apple fritters with caramel sauce drizzled on top is life changing.
Barista Tip #12: Order your chai without the water for a stronger taste.
Barista Tip #13: Starbucks retailer stores are almost always more expensive. This means your airport Starbucks and a Starbucks in a grocery store, etc. 
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The challenge, which begins in September, asks entrepreneurs, industry experts, recyclers, and other innovators to share their ideas for creating a fully recyclable and compostable cup. Any breakthroughs made during the challenge will be open source, meaning others can use the innovation. 

“We want to make sure this technology is available to everyone because it’s the right thing to do,” Andy Corlett, director of packaging research and development for Starbucks, said in a March press release. “The idea of environmental sustainability in packaging is not just a Starbucks issue. It’s a global issue. Anything that gets us closer to that goal is not something we want to keep to ourselves.”

Paper cups at Starbucks are currently made with 10% post-consumer recycled fiber. According to the release, improving the cups could allow more composting facilities to process the cups and keep them from ending up in landfills.

Over the past year, Starbucks has taken aggressive steps to cut down on customer waste: In 2017, the company released a new lid for its nitro cold brew that eliminates the need for a straw. And earlier this month, Starbucks announced plans to eliminate all plastic straws from its stores by 2020, with plans to serve iced coffee, tea, and espresso drinks with the recyclable strawless lids. 

NextGen challenge winners will receive up to $1 million in funding, and up to seven recipients will be able to develop their ideas further in a six-month program. 

Kate Daly, executive director of the Center for the Circular Economy at Closed Loop Partners, said in a July press release that the center has received more than 1,000 inquiries about the challenge. 

“In our experience investing in circular economy innovation, we find the most successful path to scaling a systems-changing solution is to bring together key players along the entire value chain in a pre-competitive collaboration," Daly said. "This is the type of partnership we need to foster innovative solutions without sacrificing profit."

The consortium will also form an advisory council of recyclers, composters, municipalities, environmental NGOs and others. Collaboration across these different groups will help create a permanent solution to cup waste, according to the July release. 

While NextGen is tackling cups now, it plans on addressing lids and straws in the future.

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