The popular coffee chain announced on Wednesday that it would replace all its polystyrene foam cups with sustainably sourced, double-walled paper cups by 2020. That milestone achievement, which the company said would eliminate nearly 1 billion foam cups from the waste stream annually, follows Dunkin’ announcing a similar goal for 2016.
Though the company missed that mark, it’s not because they haven’t been trying, a Dunkin’ spokesperson said.
In an email to HuffPost on Thursday, the company said replacing the foam cups has been a “No. 1 priority issue,” but suggested that an unpopular lid is to blame for the delay.
“Over the years we have tested countless cups with mixed results. In fact, a few years ago we considered switching our system to a polypropylene cup, but we found it did not offer the best experience for our guests because they did not like its lid,” the statement read.
Customers not preferring a certain lid may sound like a small issue ― especially when compared to polystyrene foam’s detrimental impact on the world’s landfills ― but when it came to their business, it mattered.
“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,” the company said.
Nearly six years ago, the company said in a 2012 corporate report that they hoped to find a more environmentally friendly cup within the next two to three years. This followed five years of unsuccessful searching for an alternative product that has “the necessary manufacturing capabilities, availability of raw materials, the ability to meet food safety requirements, thermal qualities, and environmental attributes such as recyclability or biodegradability.”
The winning solution: Trading out the foam and keeping the stores’ current lid.
The new cups, which Dunkin’ plans to begin rolling out this spring, will be composed of paperboard that’s certified to the Sustainable Forestry Initiative Standard, the company said.
Though the more eco-conscious cups may feel different, the company insists that it will keep beverages just as hot as its current foam cups and that an extra sleeve won’t be needed to keep hands cool.
“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,” Karen Raskopf, Chief Communications and Sustainability Officer, Dunkin’ Brands, said in a statement.
Dunkin’s announcement follows that of McDonald’s, which vowed last month to make its packaging 100 percent green by 2025. That means that all of its consumer packaging will be made out of renewable, recyclable and certified materials within seven years. Recycling bins are also being added to all of its stores.
McDonald’s previously vowed to eliminate foam packaging from its global supply chain by the end of 2018.
CORRECTION: A previous version of this story referred to polystyrene foam cups as Styrofoam. “Styrofoam” is actually the trademarked name for a Dow Chemical Company foam product used in construction and crafts, but not for food packaging.