In the early days of February 2020, McDonald’s and Starbucks introduced the idea of pilot programs. This program’s purpose was to deploy test systems for collecting, cleaning, and redistributing plastic coffee cups. It means that you could get a coffee cup you used a few months ago in the coming years when you order coffee from McDonald’s and Starbucks.
McDonald’s and Starbucks chains throw billions of coffee cups, coated with a plastic lining, in a year. Coffee cups that are layered with plastic can’t be recycled easily. Consequently, McDonald’s and Starbucks can’t meet environmental standards.
Both McDonald’s and Starbucks contributed with NextGen Cup Consortium to meet the environmental standards by initiating this pilot program. It was founded by McDonald’s and Starbucks and functioned by Closed Loop Partners to build ecologically sound coffee cups. The NextGen Cup Challenge is famous for developing reusable and smart cups to make them recyclable.
In this pilot program, two winning proposals were proposed and began testing step at California’s coffee shops. Both of these proposals come under the category of reusable cup service model.
In San Francisco, some of the independent coffee shops used Muuse start-up in which cups, encoded with QR codes, were scanned while picking and dropping off process. After the scanning process, cups were deposited at the required drop off destinations. All the Muuse cups are powder-coated, double-walled stainless steel with a polypropylene (PP) lid.
The second start-up is UK-based known as CupClub in which coffee drinkers scan an RFID tag at drop off and pick up location. After the scanning procedure, all the cups will be stacked up and sent for the cleaning process. Coffee cups, integrated with RFID tags, can be tracked at various shop counter and nearby collection sites. Companies were planning to test these cups at Palo Alto. CupClub stated that using these recycle cups made from polypropylene, with low-density polyethene (PE) lid can minimize the landfill wastage rate up to 40%.
Although the original plan was to use these pilot programs in only two California cities, NextGen Cup Challenge is planning to expand this concept through a ‘‘moon shot’’ attempt project to offer solutions for other food & beverages containers such as Coca-Cola, Nestle, Yum and Wendy’s.
Both of these above models enable McDonald’s and Starbucks’ team members to collect and reuse the coffee cups. Moreover, as models are made from plastic and embedded with RFID codes, it becomes easy to track cups. QR and RFID scan codes also provide value-based information in front of a business analyst and vendors about how the cups are being exploited by coffee drinkers and location at which they’re being deposited frequently.
NextGen’s pilot programs outline different solutions to address waste issues, promote ecosystem innovations and ensure success across different social, economic and geographical domains. However, people didn’t like the concept of drinking out coffee in a recycled cup, commented by Safia Quershi, owner of CupClub. Therefore, CupClub adopted a recyclable white plastic approach to meet environmental standards.