Today’s Solutions: July 01, 2022

Starbuck’s and McDonald’s blow through billions of disposable cups a year, feeding them into a never-ending stream of plastic waste. But in the future, when you order a coffee from them, it could be served in the same cup you used a few months ago.

That’s the vision behind the NextGen Cup challenge started by the two chains to find the perfect reusable smart cup. The current models are made mostly from plastic and outfitted with RFID chips or QR codes, with the help of which they could then ID when cups are bought but not returned perhaps indicating a need for more collection sites.

NextGen’s ambitious quest is not to find alternative materials because there are downsides to any disposable cup, whether paper, aluminum or plastic. Rather, the idea is to make cups durable and create a system in which they would be reused. That means collecting, cleaning, redistributing and digitally tracking them.

Startups Muuse and CupClub are the ones who will conduct pilot programs starting at independent coffee shops in California this week, testing both the cups and the public.

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