Who doesn’t like a hot or cold drink on the go! Our poison might differ, but we all do. But what about the takeaway coffee cups, holding that quick fix of tea or caffeine, after we are done? We are recharged, but what about mother nature?
Though we see it basically as a paper cup, it may not be as bio-degradable in reality.
Yes, the base material used for the takeaway coffee cups are biodegradable but, no, the cups are not so. All these cups, whether made from paper or fiber or any other environmental-friendly material, are layered with a thin lining of plastic to make them leak-proof. This plastic is non-biodegradable. As many as 250 million such cups are used every year and left behind to contaminate the environment.
Keeping this in mind, the NextGen Consortium, a partnership found by Starbucks and McDonald’s, had come up with a new initiative. It was called the NextGen Cup Challenge, an open-to-all competition where participants were required to present innovative ideas of how takeaway coffee cups could be recycled and made biodegradable in its entirety.
The response was overwhelming. There were almost 500 entries from over 50 countries. After 4 months of rigorous competition, 12 were declared winners. They shared the $1 million prize money.
Each winner showed a unique way. Some made the cups bio-degradable, while others devised methods to track the used takeaway coffee cups and recycle every bit- biodegradable or not. Participants from Finland and France came up with the idea of “Game Changer Cup” and the Earth Cup, which is to be taken away. From the Netherlands, Colombier BioBarrier and the German-U.S. partnership, Solenis LLC showed coatings that were bio-degradable.
Meanwhile, Germany’s Recup and England’s Cup Club are implementing new ways to return the used cups and re-use them through registered collection counters.
In California, two experimental programs have been launched through independent coffee shops at Palo Alto, San Francisco, and Oakland. In the first two places, customers are being given re-usable “smart cups” with QR codes or RFID chips on them. Then the takeaway coffee cups are getting tracked to see if they are being deposited at collectible counters or getting re-used. In Oakland, fully disposable and recyclable cups are getting circulated.
The next issue will be to look for ways to produce these cups on a scale and price point sufficient for global circulation. This is also something the Consortium is taking care of.
John Kelly, Senior Vice President of Global Public Affairs and Social Impact at Starbucks, expressed “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,”. Now the partnership has been joined by other beverage giants like Coca Cola Company, Yum! Brands, Nestlé and Wendy’s as well.
Thus, hopefully, very soon, we should be happier souls while having our environment-friendly cuppa, which would generally improve the health of the world.
Image: Earth Cup