Dunkin' Donuts And McDonald's Are Phasing Out Foam Cups

The industry is getting a whole lot greener.

Momentum is building in the food industry to make packaging more eco-friendly.

In January, McDonald's announced that it would phase out the use of its foam cups, which can't be recycled. Now, Dunkin Donuts is following suit, signifying a changing tide in the fast food packaging industry.


"Transitioning 9,000 restaurants from our iconic foam coffee cup is a big decision that has implications for our franchisees' bottom line and the guest experience, and we did not want to take it lightly," a spokesperson for Dunkin Donuts told HuffPost.  

Quincy, Massachusetts - APRIL - 2017 : Dunkin Donuts coffee and donuts served Shutterstock / Pere Rubi

Originally Dunkin Donuts said they were going to eliminate the cups by 2020. The company said it was delayed because of an unpopular replacement lid, and now says it has mapped a plan to eliminate the cups in the next two years. Representatives for company said the move will eliminate nearly one billion foam cups from waste. 

Ultimately, the company is opting to keep its current lid, but will be premiering paperboard cups that meet the Sustainable Forestry Initiative Standard.

All around the food industry, other well-known brands are making similar evolutions. Coca Cola unveiled a bottle made of plants, McDonald's said it would begin using recyclable materials for all of its packaging, and Budweiser is planning to brew its beer using renewable electricity by 2025, CNN Money reported.

Styrofoam is a trademarked name, but the contents — petroleum-based polystyrene beads — are one of largest sources of hazardous waste in the United States. VICE reported that New York City residents dump more than 20,000 tons of expanded polystyrene (EPS) into their streams and Americans use 25 billion foam cups a year. Polystyrene is a known carcinogens and takes more than 500 years to decompose. 

"This is a trend that's taking on steam because it's good business," Tensie Whelan, the director of the Center for Sustainable Business at NYU's Stern business school, told CNN.

Minsk, Belarus, june 23, 2017: McDonald's soft drink. Woman drinks a drink in the background of the McDonald's restaurant. Shutterstock / 8th.creator

Part of the reason its good business is that millennials care much more about corporate social responsibility than any generation before them. In fact, it goes beyond just where they put their money. In 2016, 64 percent of millennials said they would turn down a job offer from a company they felt didn't have strong corporate social responsibility values. But when it comes to Budweiser, the change makes sense for its bottomline: renewable energy is getting cheaper and cheaper.

When McDonald's pledged to make all of its packaging eco-friendly by 2025, it made clear that it was the customers driving the innovation.

"Our customers have told us that packaging waste is the top environmental issue they would like us to address," Francesca DeBiase, McDonald's sustainability officer, said in a statement. "Our ambition is to make changes our customers want and to use less packaging, sourced responsibly and designed to be taken care of after use."

Cover image via Shutterstock.


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