Chemistry, Materials & Packaging
Dunkin’ Donuts to Eliminate Foam Cups by 2020

As part of its commitment to serve both people and the planet responsibly, morning mainstay Dunkin’ Donuts has unveiled plans to eliminate polystyrene foam cups in its global supply chain by 2020. The phase-out will begin later this year and will see the coffeehouse giant replace conventional foam coffee cups with a double-walled paper alternative. The company’s transition to paper cups will remove nearly one billion foam cups from the waste stream annually.

The new, double-walled paper cup is already in use at the company’s next-generation concept store in its birthplace of Quincy, Mass. and will be rolled out in New York City and California in spring 2018. More markets will follow as supplier manufacturing capabilities ramp up. The majority of Dunkin’ Donuts’ international markets are already using paper cups, and the brand says it will work with its franchises to eliminate foam cups from the remaining international markets by its 2020 target.

The use of polystyrene foam packaging has been widely criticized for its impact on both environmental and human health, with organizations such as As You Sow and the Ellen MacArthur Foundation calling on global brands to part ways with polystyrene ASAP.

Dunkin’ Donuts has replaced foam with paperboard certified to the Sustainable Forestry Initiative Standard. The cup will feature the current re-closable lid and will be used for all of the brand’s hot beverages, including coffee, tea and hot chocolate. The company says the cup’s heat retention properties are equal to its foam cup, keeping beverages hot while keeping hands cool, without the need for a sleeve.

“With more than 9,000 Dunkin’ Donuts restaurants in the US alone, our decision to eliminate foam cups is significant for both our brand and our identity. We have a responsibility to improve our packaging, making it better for the planet while still meeting the needs of our guests. Transitioning away from foam has been a critical goal for Dunkin’ Donuts US and with the double-walled cup, we will be able to offer a replacement that meets the needs and expectations of both our customers and the communities we serve,” said Karen Raskopf, Chief Communications and Sustainability Officer at Dunkin’ Brands.

The move builds on Dunkin’ Donuts’ earlier commitments in the US to have 80 percent of its fiber-based consumer-facing packaging certified to the Sustainable Forestry Initiative Standard by the end of this year; eliminate artificial dyes from its menu; build new, more energy efficient restaurants; and partner with the Rainforest Alliance to source certified coffee.

In 2011, Dunkin’ Donuts announced that its number one sustainability goal was to find a more sustainable coffee cup. Over the past several years, the brand has worked to find a suitable replacement for the foam cup that met criteria for performance, environmental impact and cost.

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