Last month, Starbucks launched a $10 million grant challenge to solicit new designs for a cup that’s more environmentally friendly.

Coffee cups wreak havoc on our environment and are a nightmare when it comes to recycling. A majority of coffee cup designs involve a piece of cardboard tightly wrapped between two pieces of plastic (foam). Because of this design, coffee cups are a challenge to recycle – taking about 20 years until they decompose entirely.

A staggering 600 billion of these cups are used by food and beverage chains each year with Starbucks accounting for roughly 6 billion.

Starbucks attempted to create a solution before by grinding down old cups into fiber, then reusing that fiber to make new cups. This short-term solution, however, didn’t solve the bigger issue: eliminating this material entirely from our landfills.

That strategy has carried the company where they are today. Currently, Starbucks cups are manufactured using only 10% recycled material. Also, because of regulations on appropriate infrastructure (regulations set forth by local municipalities) Starbucks is only able to recycle material from Seattle, San Francisco, New York, and Washington DC.

Besides their grant challenge, Starbucks is conducting its 13th round of testing for a “greener” coffee cup. Plant-based fiber seems to be the next plan-of-attack for the company as they painstakingly search for a more eco-friendly alternative.

Starbucks isn’t the only chain feeling the heat from the eyes of environmental groups leaning on them to develop a sustainable alternative. Dunkin’ Donuts and McDonald’s have both vowed to eliminate polystyrene cups and create more environmentally friendly alternatives by the early 2020’s.

In today’s world, the word “green” means more than just money: it’s a way of life for businesses looking to become sustainability icons – starting with their manufacturing processes.