- Global coffee chain Dunkin' Donuts announced Wednesday its intention to eliminate polystyrene foam cups from its global supply chain by 2020. The polystyrene cups in the U.S. will be replaced with double-walled paper. The new cups do not need a cardboard sleeve to keep hands cool, according to the company.
- The company said the transition from polystyrene foam to double-walled paper cups in the U.S. would begin in spring 2018, in stores in California and New York City. Double-walled paper will "be phased in across the U.S. as supplier manufacturing capabilities ramp up," according to the company.
- The majority of the company's international franchisees already use paper, Dunkin' Donuts said, and the company will work with its international partners to transition by the domestic 2020 goal.
Dunkin' Donuts is the latest in a string of companies that have recently made sustainability pledges and set ambitious goals. Coca-Cola said in mid January that it will recycle 100% of its packaging by 2030 and McDonald's wants to recycle 100% of guest packaging by 2025.
As You Sow, a nonprofit which promotes sustainability through shareholder advocacy and legal strategies, commended Dunkin' Donuts for its new pledge in a released statement. As You Sow had been engaging with Dunkin' Donuts for years, and in 2017 withdrew a shareholder proposal after the company agreed to publish a report on its recycling efforts.
"This action will remove nearly 1 billion foam cups from the waste stream annually," Conrad MacKerron, senior vice president of As You Sow, said in an emailed statement. "Coupled with McDonald's recent commitment to phase out foam materials globally, these two actions could significantly reduce the amount of single use cups that end up as littered waste on land and in waterways."
Environmental advocacy group Greenpeace welcomed the announcement from Dunkin' Donuts, but said the move didn't go far enough. In an emailed statement to Waste Dive, Greenpeace Oceans campaign manager Kate Melges said "companies like Dunkin' need to focus on moving toward reusable products and away from the single-use, throwaway mindset that has dominated the fast food sector for far too long."
While many disposable coffee cups — including those made of polystyrene foam — are technically recyclable, the process is difficult, especially when contamination is a factor. Some companies, like Veolia in the United Kingdom, are starting to make strides in the area by offering specialty collections services.
Dunkin' Donuts' assertion that it will phase-in paper products on a timeline partially dependent on domestic U.S. manufacturing could be a positive for the domestic recycling industry. With China closing its doors to imports of scrap material, recyclers in the U.S. are left searching for new markets. Dunkin' Donuts' push for domestic supply of paper could create a market for scrap paper in the U.S.