Looks like Ronald McDonald has a new friend, and their first date is over coffee to talk about environmentalism.
McDonald's Corp. is joining with the famous sea siren of Starbucks Corp. as founding participants in the NextGen Cup Consortium and Challenge created by Closed Loop Partners. The challenge is to develop a recyclable or compostable coffee cup.
Both companies over the years have faced criticism from some people regarding their use of materials in their coffee cups.
McDonald's recently switched from an expanded polystyrene cup to a paper version. And Starbucks has been trying to find an alternative to its polyethylene-lined paper coffee cups. The addition of the plastic layer renders those cups unrecyclable in many locations.
McDonald's is committing $5 million to the challenge, which brings total funding to $10 million. Starbucks and Closed Loop Partners, which works to bolster recycling through a variety of efforts, unveiled the NextGen program in March.
The program will award funding of up to $1 million, based on achieving milestones, to up to seven awardees. Those finalists will enter what is being called by organizers a six-month "accelerator program to help scale their solutions."
"A better cup will benefit the entire industry and we invite others to join us as we move these efforts forward," said Colleen Chapman, vice president of global social impact focused on sustainability for Starbucks, in a statement.
An advisory council to the NextGen project includes non-government organizations, recyclers, composters, municipalities and those in academics to ensure the validity of the work throughout the cups' lifecycle.
"There has never been a greater need to tackle the ways in which we source and recover materials," said Erin Simon, director of sustainability research and development and material science at the World Wildlife Fund, in a statement.
The challenge, which begins in September, has received more than 1,000 inquiries about participation so far, Closed Loop Partners said.
"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," said Kate Daly, executive director of the Center for the Circular Economy at Closed Loop Partners, in a statement.
The effort initially will focus on fiber-based hot and cold cups, but will eventually involve cups, lids and straws.