Don’t Toss That Cup: McDonald’s and Starbucks Are Developing Reusables


In the future, when you order a coffee at McDonald’s or Starbucks, it could be served in the same cup you used a few months earlier.

That’s the vision behind pilot programs this week that will introduce two types of “smart” reusable cups in independent coffee shops in San Francisco and Palo Alto, California. The models, made mostly from plastic and outfitted with RFID chips or QR codes for tracking, are the fruit of a two-year “moon shot” project known as the NextGen Cup Challenge, which was led by Starbucks Corp. and McDonald’s Corp.

Those two chains alone blow through billions of paper cups a year, and most are coated with a plastic lining that makes them almost impossible to recycle. Eliminating that waste would go a long way toward meeting environmental goals set by each company. The NextGen group also intends to try some new compostable and recyclable single-use cups in Oakland.

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