Dunkin’ Donuts plans to begin phasing out polystyrene foam cups beginning this spring, planning to have completely eliminated polystyrene cups from its global supply chain by 2020.
While the majority of Dunkin’ Donuts’ international markets are currently using paper cups, the company will work to replace foam cups with a new, double-walled paper cup throughout its US stores as quickly as manufacturing capabilities can get up to speed. Dunkin’ Donuts has been searching for a suitable — and affordable — replacement for polystyrene cups since 2011.
The move follows a similar commitment from McDonald’s to end the use of polystyrene foam packaging globally by the end of this year (McDonald’s phased out foam cups for hot beverages in the US in 2012, but has continued to use them in foreign markets like Hong Kong and the Philippines).
Search for the Double-walled Paper Cup
Dunkin’ Donuts has been seeking the answer to a more environmentally responsible cup since 2011, having done extensive research to find a suitable replacement for the foam cup that “met criteria for performance, environmental impact and cost,” according to the company. Dunkin’ Donuts’ transition to paper cups will remove nearly 1 billion foam cups from the waste stream annually.
The new, double-walled paper cup is already in use at Dunkin’ Donuts’ next generation concept store, which opened in mid-January in Quincy, Massachusetts. It will be introduced at all Dunkin’ Donuts restaurants in New York City and California in spring 2018, and will be phased in across the US as supplier manufacturing capabilities ramp up.
The double-walled paper cup is made with paperboard certified to the Sustainable Forestry Initiative Standard and will feature the current re-closable lid already familiar to Dunkin’s customers. With heat retention properties equal to the company’s foam cup, the new double-walled paper cup will keep beverages hot while keeping hands cool, without the need for a sleeve.
Dunkin’ Donuts’ other initiatives to help the company improve environmental responsibility include next generation concept stores that are approximately 25% more energy-efficient than the previous restaurant model, efforts to advance sustainable palm oil sourcing, and a commitment to have all espresso beverages served at Dunkin’ Donuts US restaurants and in approximately 16 international markets made with 100% Rainforest Alliance Certified beans.
Not Everyone’s an Environmentalist
While activist groups have been calling on restaurants like McDonald’s and Dunkin’ Donuts for years to oust the foam cups, not everyone is happy with the news. Much of the buzz on social media is focusing on how the new paper cups will keep hot drinks hot and cold drinks cold compared to Dunkin’ Donuts’ current offering.
In a statement, advocacy group As You Sow congratulated the doughnut and coffee chain for its announcement, adding that “the decision to replace foam cups with paper is surprising as the company previously indicated it was leaning towards a polypropylene plastic cup as ‘currently the best available alternative to foam’ and already using polypropylene in areas that had banned foam.”