March 14, 2019

Restaurant chains support packaging initiative

Three giant restaurant companies have joined forces to support an initiative addressing packaging waste issues that challenge the foodservice industry. The plans include development of a sustainable cup that is recyclable and compostable.

Starbucks, McDonald’s and Wendy’s, all recognizing the need for increased and improved sustainable packaging, are participating in the NextGen Consortium, which is focused on creating environmentally friendly food packaging solutions.

The effort, led by sustainable investment firm Closed Loop Partners, began last September, with the NextGen Cup Challenge, a contest highlighting sustainable packaging innovations, such as the creation of a cup the companies could serve at their units worldwide. NextGen said 12 firms are now contest finalists. The judges chose the finalists during a four-month review process.

The 12 winners, in categories such as innovative cup liners, new materials and reusable cup service models, could transform single-use cup waste into recycled, reusable products.

The challenge is the first part of a three-year effort. Next, the winner participates in the NextGen Circular Business Accelerator, where the product gets tested, piloted and shared with suppliers, recyclers and composters, who provide input about whether it can achieve its sustainability and packaging goals.

Laura Abshire, the National Restaurant Association’s director of sustainability policy and government affairs, said the participation of the three companies – all of whom are Association members ‑‑ is integral to the initiative’s success and finding a solution to packaging issues in the future.

“Sustainable packaging has been a front-burner issue for our industry for some time, and we are pleased to see progress being made in this arena,” she said. “Championing a solution that is cost effective, performs properly and helps protect the environment is exciting for all of us.”

Starbucks’ John Kelly, senior vice president of global public affairs and social impact, said the initiative is “a notable milestone [in our aspiration] of sustainable coffee served sustainably.”

McDonald’s Senior Vice President and Chief Supply Chain Officer Marion Gross said the company is committed to “using our scale for good to make positive changes that impact our planet and the communities we serve.” She added that the chain wants to “help solve this pressing challenge.… Collaboration is key to finding a scalable, lasting global solution.”

Wendy’s said joining the consortium and launching its Squarely Sustainable program are its latest efforts to enhance awareness of its corporate responsibility initiatives.