Announcing the NextGen Cup Challenge Winners

Celebrating 12 ideas that are pushing the boundaries of material and chemical innovation and sustainable design as they reinvent the fiber cup system

In 2018, OpenIDEO partnered with Closed Loop Partners and the NextGen Consortium to launch the NextGen Cup Challenge, asking innovators the question:

How might we design the next generation fiber cup to be recoverable on a global scale, while maintaining the performance standards we know and trust?

480 teams from around the world joined the Challenge, and after months of concept development, prototyping and iteration, we are thrilled to announce the winners of the NextGen Cup Challenge. 

Winners represent the most innovative solutions across three distinct categories: innovative cup liners, new materials, and reusable cup service models. The NextGen Cup Consortium is excited to continue building relationships with these companies and work with them to advance and scale their concepts globally.

These teams will be awarded a portion of up to $1 million in funding, and up to six of them will be moving on to a post-Challenge business accelerator. Accelerator teams will be advancing their solutions by exploring questions around technical feasibility, business viability, and user desirability. They will receive ongoing support to scale up their models and prepare for production and distribution at a global scale. 

If you are interested in following their journey, be sure to subscribe to receive updates from Closed Loop Partners' Center for the Circular Economy, managing partners of the NextGen Cup Challenge and Consortium.  

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Innovative Cup Liners

These companies are rethinking the polyethylene plastic liners in cups that currently make to-go cups difficult to recycle.

Colombier BioBarrier Coating

By: Colombier Group

Location: Netherlands, Finland

BioBarrier to replace plastic in cups, food containers, and packaging. 

Colombier is a family company whose focus is on sustainability in our business, our families and our environment, across generations. By listening to customers in the food and packaging industry we have developed our ecological Colombier Barrier Coating. We strive to do our share in reducing plastic consumption and providing environmentally viable solutions.

Earth Cup

By: C.E.E R. SCHISLER with the contribution of Sun Chemical

Location: France

Earth Cup is the home compostable 100% paper cup, monomaterial, without polyethylene for hot and cold drinks and ice cream. It is also recyclable and has the same technical barriers and food contact certification as polyethylene cups.

Footprint Formed Fiber Solution

By: Footprint US

Location: USA

Footprint's in-market technologies evolved to provide a formed fiber cup, lid, and paper straw solution that is recyclable and compostable.

The Footprint Cup, Lid, Straw line of products are creating a new era of sustainable cups for quick service restaurants. As a fully formed fiber-based solution, Footprint cups and lids bring a host of new innovations to the cup space that traditional manufacturing cannot match. From variable wall thickness, to textures, to formed features that interlock with each other, Footprint cups and lids are changing the way cups work.

The Game Changer Cup

By: Kotkamills Oy

Location: Finland

Plastic free, recyclable and compostable cupstock that can be processed into cups at existing cup making machines. 

Kotkamills is a responsible partner that delivers renewable products and performance to its customers' processes via product innovations created from wood, a renewable raw material. Kotkamills’ team of 500 persons is changing the game from Kotka, Finland.

New Gen BioPBS Coated Cup

By: PTT MCC Biochem Company Limited

Location: Thailand

New Gen BioPBS is today’s solution for a sustainable tomorrow. This New Gen BioPBS liner is a solution for all coated paper packaging to make them recyclable or home compostable.

Solenis Topscreen: Consumer Board

By: Solenis LLC

Location: USA, Belgium 

Solenis LLC creates a barrier coating that is recyclable and compostable. Solenis is a leading global producer of specialty chemicals for water-intensive industries, including the pulp, paper, oil and gas, chemical processing, mining, biorefining, power and municipal markets. The company’s product portfolio includes a broad array of process, functional and water treatment chemistries, as well as state-of-the-art monitoring and control systems. These technologies are used by customers to improve operational efficiencies, enhance product quality, protect plant assets and minimize environmental impact.

Sun Chemical - Inks and Coatings

By: Sun Chemical Corporation

Location: USA 

Sun Chemical, a member of the DIC group, is a leading producer of printing inks, coatings and supplies, pigments, polymers, liquid compounds, solid compounds, and application materials. Our materials will help replace polyethylene-coated paper cups with cost-effective structures that are recyclable and compostable.

WestRock Circular Cup Solution

By: WestRock Corporation

Location: USA  

WestRock (NYSE:WRK), a leading provider of differentiated paper and packaging solutions, offers the WestRock Circular Cup, a recyclable and compostable paperboard solution for hot or cold beverage cup applications for the NextGen Cup Challenge. This solution meets all current specifications in the paper cup and foodservice industry while improving recoverability and enhancing the recycling process through 100% repulpability.

New Materials

This company is using cutting edge, plant-based materials to make compostable cups.

Solublue Biodegradable Cups and Straws

By: Solublue Ltd.

Location: UK 

Solublue products are plant based, food grade and non-toxic products that biodegrade after use, designed to replace single use plastics in such areas as single use cups and straws, food retail packaging and structural packaging.

Reusable Cup Service Models

The cups made by these companies aren’t single-use, they just keep cycling–remaining in service by harnessing the power of technology and design.

CupClub - Join the Reusable Revolution

By: CupClub

Location: UK 

CupClub is the world's first returnable cup ecosystem which replaces the 100 billion single-use cups and lids used globally every year. CupClub provides a service for drinks, allowing consumers to take away hot and cold beverages from any participating cafe, returning them when finished to the nearest CupClub drop point. Think bike sharing, but for cups.

ReCup - Deposit System for Reusable Cups

By: ReCup GmbH

Location: Germany

RECUP is the sustainable alternative to disposable cups and a more convenient one to reusable ones—that you have to buy, carry around and, most often, forget at home. 

The system is simple: instead of bringing your own cup from home, you simply rent your cup for a deposit whenever and wherever you’re in the actual need for a drink to-go—such as in the mornings at the bakery around the corner, at lunch at your offices’ cafeteria or at the train station before heading to another city. After consumption, you return your cup to the same or any other participating shop in the same or any other city. You then receive the deposit back and don’t have to worry about the cleaning of the cup or carrying it around. By participating in the RECUP-system, shops benefit from a convenient and holistic service.

Indonesian Cup Company

By: Indonesian Cup Company

Location: Indonesia, Hong Kong  

This company operates a deposit-based platform for smart, reusable food and beverage packaging in office, festival, restaurant-chain, and city-wide networks with the goal of eliminating single-use waste. We connect our cups--and third party products—to internet of things technology through RFID tags and an intuitive mobile/web platform. This company is changing the way we use packaging without sacrificing consumer or restaurant convenience.

Honorable Mentions

These companies, although not winners, merited an Honorable Mention. They are two examples of the many innovative material types submitted to the Challenge, and we’re excited to watch them grow.

Nature's Cup

By: CRÈME / Jun Aizaki Architecture & Design

Location: USA

Creating a sustainable alternative to single-use plastic cups, using gourds which are naturally grown inside custom-designed 3D-printed molds.

Founded by Jun Aizaki, CRÈME is a collaboration of dynamic, international designers and creative professionals. Based on the idea that all design challenges require the same problem solving approach, we approach a chair, a restaurant, a building, the same way we would approach a logo or a block.

Mushroom Cup

By: Concentric LLC

Location: USA

Mushroom Cup is a compostable cup grown into shape using mushrooms and is coated with cellulose acetate, a biodegradable plastic.

The mushroom cup is made primarily from 3 materials: a base organic material (such as wood pulp, corn husks, or discarded grains), the mycelium organism which binds that material together, and cellulose acetate which is used as a protective waterproof coating for the cup. The concept does not need any additional infrastructure to recover the cup once it's discarded.

The NextGen Challenge is a part of NextGen Consortium, a global initiative convened by Closed Loop Partners’ Center for the Circular Economy and founding members Starbucks and McDonald’s. The Coca-Cola Company, Yum! Brands, Nestle, and Wendy's support the Consortium, and World Wildlife Fund (WWF) is an advisory partner. OpenIDEO is the Consortium's open innovation partner.

Felicia Chiao

San Francisco, USA

Felicia Chiao is an industrial designer and illustrator based in San Francisco. By day, she works as an industrial designer for IDEO's Design for Food team, and at night she has been drawing in sketchbooks for over seven years, mostly for fun.

Felicia's Design Tips

"When starting a composition, create an anchor first and then build around it. The anchor can be the focus of the piece (like an object/animal/person) or a setting (interior, beach, city, etc.) and the rest of the elements drawn in after should support it."

You don’t need to know what the whole drawing is going to look like when you start it. Start with what you know and build into it as you go. If you don't enjoy what you're making it will show, so if something you're working on doesn't feel right, bite the bullet and start over instead of wasting time overworking it. I work mostly with markers, which often limits my choice of colors for the color palette, but you can start with the colors you know you will use (a red apple, blue water, etc) and then looking at your palette, pick which other colors would go well with what you have.

Erika Díaz Gómez

Bógota, Colombia

Erika was born in Colombia and loves creating stories without words. She thinks that telenovelas are more interesting than science fiction.

Erika's Design Tips

"Create your own personal and technical rules; fail, win and be patient."

Learn from yourself. Document, revisit and appreciate what you designed in the past. Explore your personal craft and celebrate your creator's identity. Make and repeat. Go analog, explore both your personal and craft's constraints, and don't let your commercial work take over. Art and side projects are the best teachers.

May Kodama

Oakland, USA

May is a true-crime-podcast-listening, plant caring, constantly eating, Japanese-American graphic designer. She strives to make good design, travel the world, and become the mother of five dogs at some point in her life.

May's Design Tips

"Try limiting your color palette to 1-5 colors, and even limit the shades of those colors. Explore how simply you can communicate depth and perspective with the layering of the limited palette. You can start with monochrome in pure black and white, before layering the additional complexity of color."

Always be hungry for discovery. The thing that motivates me the most is experimentation and exploration. I'm always looking for new mediums to try out and play in, whether it be in 2D, 3D, digital, motion, etc. I find that as long as I'm constantly doing and learning something new, I stay inspired and excited about the work. However, don’t look at too much inspiration. Sometimes, I can get lost on the Pinterest train, clicking into link after link after link. Visual overload can crowd and push out your own ideas, so be careful to balance looking externally and looking internally. Inspiration can only help so much. Save space for your own creativity to flow.

Allison Press

Oakland, USA

Allison is an interaction designer and strategist at IDEO on a mission to design for the public good. Whether it’s improving how public institutions serve their citizens, creating digital access to learning, or cultivating civic engagement, she is driven toward systems-level challenges with optimism and obsession for figuring out how design can be used to more equitably serve people. In her spare time, she enjoys making gifts that celebrate the people who make her life full.

Alison's Design Tips

"A balanced composition has three things—a large element (like a colored background), a medium element (like the focal point), and a small element (to add visual texture)."

If you want to take your creation to the next level, adding a little bit of texture in digital illustrations goes a long way.