Dunkin’ Donuts Finally Ditches Styrofoam Cups

The chain is getting rid of the containers in NYC and might be taking the change nationwide.

(Photo: Dunkin Donuts/Facebook)

Jul 2, 2015· 1 MIN READ
Culture and education editor Liz Dwyer has written about race, parenting, and social justice for several national publications. She was previously education editor at Good.

With 30 cups of coffee sold every second at its stores, it seems America really does run on Dunkin’. That might be great for folks in need of a caffeine jolt during their morning commute, but the Dunkin’ Donuts has long served its steaming-hot java in nonbiodegradeable Styrofoam cups—which will still be sitting ugly in landfills 500 years from now.

But thanks to a law banning take-out containers made of Styrofoam that went into effect on July 1 in New York City, Dunkin’ seems to be leaning toward ditching the plastic material nationwide. To comply with Gotham’s ban, the chain has debuted a new recyclable cup, reported the New York Daily News.

Instead of being handed a cup made of Styrofoam, New Yorkers who purchase coffee at the more than 500 Dunkin’ Donuts shops across the five boroughs will now get a container created from polypropylene.

Styrofoam is simply the brand name of polystyrene foam, a plastic that’s not biodegradable. Although it can technically be recycled, Styrofoam usually isn’t because recyclers won’t accept it unless it’s in pristine condition—no stains or residue from a Chinese take-out dinner or from coffee can be present. In comparison, polypropylene is a thermoplastic polymer commonly used to create everything from yogurt containers to medicine bottles. Containers made from polypropylene are fully recyclable.

So, Why Should You Care? U.S. residents generated 33 million tons of plastic waste in 2013, according to the Environmental Protection Agency, and only recycled about 9 percent of it. That’s bad enough, but every year Americans also toss 25 billion nonrecyclable Styrofoam cups in the garbage, according to the EPA. Even worse, they might just toss their cup on the ground, where it can break into tiny plastic bits as it floats down a storm drain, ending up as part of the Pacific Garbage Patch, sickening fish and animals, and dirtying beaches.

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A rep for Dunkin Donuts told Huffington Post it hopes to roll out its more eco-friendly cups nationwide in 2016. To that end, the company is testing a variety of non-Styrofoam containers—some are made from polypropylene, while others are paper based—in select stores in California, Massachusetts, and Vermont. Overall, Dunkin’ Donuts will “continue to evaluate and test all available cups until we believe we have found the best solution based on cost, performance, commercial viability, and environmental impacts,” according to the statement.