NextGen Circular Business Accelerator teams. From left to right: Joe Tighe of Solublue (UK); Francis Carroll, Lizzie Horvitz, and Brian Reilly of Muuse (Indonesia); Jeff Bassett of Footprint (USA); Safia Qureshi and Simon Millman of CupClub (UK); Henrik Björnberg of Colombier Group (Finland); Fabian Eckert and Alexandra Gurstmeier of RECUP (Germany).

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.  

To stay apprised of future circular economy initiatives at OpenIDEO, subscribe here.


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.


By: Muuse

Location: Indonesia, Hong Kong  

Muuse 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.

Understanding Cybersecurity

  1. Cybersecurity and Crime: Google Security Princess Parisa Tabriz and Jenny Martin from Symantec introduce the most common types of cybercrime in this video.
  2. Cybersecurity: How it Works: A 5 min IBM video on how cybersecurity works.
  3. Cybersecurity in Under 3 Minutes: Learning about CyberSimplicity in under 3 min. 
  4. DEFCON Hacking Challenge: A 6 min hacking experiment at Defcon.
  5. Cybersecurity Crash Course: This video gives a crash course on the basics of cybersecurity.

  1. Can news coverage of cyber issues get past hacks and attacks?: Hewlett Foundation commissioned a study from George Washington University Professor Sean Aday to analyze news coverage from 2014 to 2017 in major news media outlets. Sean Aday, discusses the report’s key findings and their implications.
  2. Comics with a Serious Message: The Rise of Cartoons for Teaching Cybersecurity: Article investigating the use of comics for serious topics on cybersecurity.
  3. Shall I Compare Thee to a Cyber Attack?: A U.S. Army cybersecurity analyst offers a lesson in explaining the impact of a cyber attack: use better metaphors.
  4. Delete Yourself: Television’s conflicted, heroic hackers: An article talking about Hollywood’s reductive portrayal of Hackers.
  5. Can news coverage of cyber issues get past hacks and attacks?: An article on news coverage of cybersecurity, and an invitation to dive into policy.
  6. Covering Cyber: Media coverage of cyber issues since 2014: Media coverage of cybersecurity since 2014.
  7. Tech Privacy: The Funniest Hacker Stock Photos 4.0: The Future of Hacking: An overview in pictures of hacker pictures, all looking very similar.
  8. War on the Rocks: Cyber Officials Need Help But Are Experts Up to the Task: Article on cybersecurity policy and the gap between academics government.
  9. Why the U.S. Needs More Cyber Translators: A case study at the intersection between government and tech experts known as “cyber translation.”
  10. Musicians May be the Key to the CyberSecurity Shortage: A read on finding creative talent for the cybersecurity industry.
  11. Art Show at Chicago’s THOTCON 0x9 Hacker Conference: When Art intersects with Cybersecurity.
  12. Innovation of Diversity in CyberSecurity: An article highlighting the diversity problem in Cybersecurity: Women are always minorities.
  13. How Design Thinking Can Change Cybersecurity: Design Thinking solving the Cybersecurity challenges.
  14. Foreign Policy: In Cyber War, There are No Rules: An article outlining the need for conventions and rules in the cybersecurity world.
  15. The Role of Instructional Design in Persuasion:A Comics Approach for Improving Cyber Security: This article highlights comics’ role in persuading users to practice good computer security.
  16. Hackers Are the Real Obstacle for Self-Driving Vehicles: Case study studying the effect of hackers on self-driving cars.
  1. Juan Andrés Guerrero-Saade, Principal Security Researcher, Recorded Future: Podcast featuring CyberSecurity Conversations.
  2. Ivan Arce on Hacking in Culture in Argentina: Podcast episode about the concentration of hacking talent in Argentina, and Ivan's focus on security problems in the Android ecosystem.
  3. Aanchal Gupta on Societal Change: Aanchal shares her story and provides guidance for young women struggling to overcome societal obstacles.
  4. How we know Russia did it, the FBI using Best Buy, an IBM study on ransomware, and more: A podcast on political hacking from Daniel Miessler, a cybersecurity expert and author of The Real Internet of Things.
  5. The IoT You Got for Christmas: A podcast discussing the finer points of the internet of things.
  6. Targeted Threats from Facts to Fiction: A discussion on advanced threats in cybersecurity.
  7. Security Awareness Deep Dive: Podcast on why you shouldn’t train employees for security awareness.
  8. Prove to me you are Human: Discussions on authentication issues, network security, airplane security, AI, and Minecraft.

The promise of the Food System Vision Prize is to light the way–to be the North Star–for populations across the globe to realize a more promising, nourishing, and healthy future.