As You Sow Statement on Dunkin’ Brands Phase out of Foam Cups

Oakland, CA – February 7, 2018 – Conrad MacKerron, senior vice president of As You Sow, made the following statement:

As You Sow congratulates Dunkin’ Brands today for choosing a replacement material for its polystyrene foam beverage cups and setting a 2020 date to phase them out. This action will remove nearly 1 billion foam cups from the waste stream annually. 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.

The company’s commitment to phase out foam is not new. It stated in 2011 that its top sustainability goal was to replace foam cups, but did not move swiftly to pursue alternative materials and a phase out date.  McDonald’s Corp. replaced foam cups with paper cups three years ago, and last month agreed to remove foam from all global markets by the end of 2018.

As You Sow engaged the company for several years on its progress in settling on a replacement material as part of a larger dialogue on recycling beverage cups at its restaurant locations. In 2017, it withdrew a shareholder proposal on packaging recycling after the company agreed to publish a report on progress and challenges in recycling its packaging.

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. More than 100 U.S. cities or counties have banned or restricted foam packaging. 

The ocean plastic pollution crisis requires that companies take actions on several fronts.  We hope Dunkin’ can move more rapidly in its transition to paper, and introduce recycled fiber content in the paper cups, which will strengthen recycling and end markets for these materials. Starbucks has used 10% recycled fiber in its cups for many years. Dunkin’ also needs to adopt a company-wide policy of offering discounts for patrons who bring in reusable coffee mugs and containers, and provide reusables (i.e. ceramic mugs and tumblers) for guests who dine on site as practicable, as Starbucks has pledged to do.

Contact: Cyrus Nemati, (510) 735-8157, Conrad MacKerron, (510) 735-8140