Starbucks & McDonald's Are Joining Forces To Reimagine The To-Go Cup

Photo: Starbucks

How's this for proof that teamwork makes a dream work? McDonald's and Starbucks just joined forces to design a new recyclable, compostable to-go cup for the food industry. Combined, the two food chains are behind an estimated 4 percent of the 600 billion cups produced worldwide every year, Fast Company reports.

As it stands now, there's no good estimate for how many single-use cups actually end up being properly recycled every year, but according to one 2017 audit in the United Kingdom, when it comes to coffee cups in particular, the figure is as low as 1 percent. That's because while many to-go cups are made with materials that are technically recyclable, their plastic linings make them tricky to recycle in certain markets since every recycling plant does things a little differently.

In order to find a universal solution to this problem, McDonald's and Starbucks are challenging innovators around the world to design a cup (and potentially a straw and lid, too) that can be "composted or recycled and given a second life" in what they're dubbing the NextGenCupChallenge. The competition opens in September, and up to seven winners will be awarded $1 million to bring their idea to life. The food service duo hopes that some of the designs will become industry standard within the next three years.

"We are proud to come together with industry partners like McDonald’s to drive innovative, scalable solutions for cup waste," Colleen Chapman, vice president of Global Social Impact at Starbucks, wrote in a company press release. "A better cup will benefit the entire industry, and we invite others to join us as we move these efforts forward."

While the companies may seem like competitors on the surface, they've been united in their efforts to cut down on landfill-bound waste recently. Earlier this year, McDonald's announced that it was setting out to make all of its cups, wrappers, straws, and boxes completely recyclable and responsibly sourced by 2025. Around the same time, select Starbucks outposts in London started charging for to-go cups in order to encourage people to bring their own reusable mugs. And just last week, the chain announced plans to ban single-use plastic straws across its 28,000-plus locations globally.

While finding ways to nix single-use plastics altogether would be the best scenario here, you can't shoot down progress.

Psst...you're still better off avoiding single-use plastics altogether. Here's why!

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