Dunkin' Donuts Is Finally Ending Their Use Of Foam Cups

The franchise started looking for a way to switch from polystyrene to paper in 2011. It's taken a long time, but Dunkin' Donuts may no longer be running on foam.


May 22 2019, Updated 2:23 p.m. ET

On Wednesday, Dunkin' Donuts announced plans to finally eliminate all polystyrene foam cups from their supply chain, with a goal to end their use completely by 2020. In their press release, they say the process will begin in the spring of 2018, so if you like drinking boiling hot coffee from foam cups, you only have a few more weeks of guaranteed time to do so. 

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Dunkin' Donut's international locations mostly already use double-walled paper cups for their coffee, and U.S. restaurants will be making the switch. The company says they will be working with any sellers outside the country to eliminate the foam cups as well, so it is a world-wide goal.

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The paper cups made their debut at a location in Quincy, Massachusetts, where the franchise was founded. Dunkin' is trying to build on earlier commitments to make 80 percent of their fiber-based "consumer-facing packaging" certified by the Sustainable Forestry Initiative Standard, and the paperboard used for these cups has been vetted and approved.

However, the cup will still feature the usual plastic lid, but Dunkin' began making the switch in 2015 to recyclable #5 polypropylene from PET, and state that the change will be complete by summer of 2018.

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In a statement, Karen Raskopf, Chief Communications and Sustainability Officer of Dunkin’ Brands, acknowledged what a wide reach the company has, and what potential they also have for contributing to change in the fast food industry.

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“With more than 9,000 Dunkin’ Donuts restaurants in the U.S. alone, our decision to eliminate foam cups is significant for both our brand and our industry. 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 U.S., 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.”

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This move has been a long time coming, by their own admission. They first stated they wanted to switch out foam cups in 2011, but struggled to find cups that would meet their criteria and price point. They have made other efforts, like removing artificial dyes from packaging and menu labels, switching to recycled paper for napkins, partnering with sustainably sourced coffee producers, and working to build new sustainable, energy-efficient restaurants. 

While the process may be slow, the change at Dunkin' shows what a far reach a company can have when it adjusts its production line; there will be one billion fewer cups in the waste stream after the transition is complete. Donut holes, anyone?

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