If you walk into a Dunkin’ Donuts in New England, anywhere in New England, and order a “regular iced in a cold cup,” you’ll get an iced coffee with cream and sugar in a styrofoam cup. That cup is iconic, in a region that has loved coffee since the bean first showed up on our shores. As a result, you can find the Dunk’s cup everywhere, including, sadly, in trash barrels and gutters.
Now, nearly a decade after the company promised the styrofoam cup was on the way out, Dunkin’ Donuts appears ready to leave behind the cold cup for good, replacing it with double-walled paper.
Dunkin’ Donuts is a rare holdout when it comes to styrofoam. McDonalds got rid of most of its foam packaging in the early ’90s, and the remaining 2% of its packing that’s still styrofoam will be gone by the end of the year. Starbucks has never used foam packaging, and even the rest of the fast food industry has, by and large, walked away from foamed plastic even if these businesses aren’t exactly environmentally friendly in other respects.
There’s a reason styrofoam is the first eco target of most companies: It’s freaking bad. It’s made from foamed polystyrene, doesn’t break down quickly, and an analysis of the stuff found it clogging waterways and other animal habitats. Styrofoam also photodegrades, it doesn’t biodegrade. Meaning that it simply breaks into smaller and smaller piece ad infinitum. As it becomes smaller and smaller, animals are more likely to eat it.
If that weren’t enough, cleaning up styrofoam litter costs taxpayers millions every year. The less of the stuff there is, the better.