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The rivals hope to come up with something environmentally safe in the next three years. 

Elisabeth Sherman
July 17, 2018

In what might be considered a surprising turn of events, it’s fast food giants that are leading the charge to make environmentally-safe packaging more mainstream. In the United Kingdom, McDonald’s announced it would be banning all plastic straws in its restaurants, before deciding to test non-plastic straws in the United States. Then, Starbucks made a major announcement, too: Goodbye green plastic straws—soon, Starbucks drinks will be equipped with sippy cup tops. Plastic straws are just the beginning of the two companies' mission to save the planet. Now, Starbucks and McDonald’s have teamed up to design a totally recyclable, compostable cup—along with its straw and lid.

As Fast Company reports, both McDonald’s and Starbucks cups are “technically recyclable,” but they rarely make it into the appropriate bin (sometimes because components like the straw and lid don't belong there, other times because cities and states have recycling standards that don’t match up). However, earlier this year, Starbucks launched the NextGen Cup Challenge, which encourages businesses (of any scale) to contribute ideas that might make their cups able to fit within any given recycling rules, and McDonald’s decided to join in.

Such an innovation would be highly regarded as a breakthrough in the restaurant industry, but McDonald’s promises it won’t be especially lucrative, which is just one reason the company decided to join Starbucks’ initiative. Another is that, as Marion Gross, McDonald’s chief supply chain officer for the United States, put it, "there are certain things we’d say that we’re not competitors on."

With McDonald’s on board, the cup challenge will officially begin in September. The business with the best ideas will receive $1 million in funding to develop its concept, working closely with both Starbucks and McDonald’s on a cup that will ultimately be available in stores.

This is just another step in McDonald’s campaign to improve its environmental safety standards: Back in March, the company announced that it would cut down significantly on greenhouse gas emissions by 2030.