Dunkin' Donuts Introduces Paper Cups, Plans to Phase Out Styrofoam

Staff Writer
Thanks to public criticism from environmental activists, Dunkin' is testing the cups in Massachusetts

Photo Sasabune Omakase Modified: Flickr/erin/CC 4.0

Of course, new paper cups pose a whole new set of challenges for the chain, namely, how to keep that distinctive Styrofoam "feel" in a paper cup.

You're pretty used to the clunky foam cup you get at your local Dunkin' Donuts, but soon, that may all change. The Boston Globe reports that the chain is quietly testing out paper cups at its Brookline, Mass., locations after criticism from environmental groups and cities that are banning Styrofoam. 

Brookline, Mass., has banned the use of Styrofoam, effective Dec. 1; but the cups are expected to land in Maine and New York very soon, as similar bans are being proposed. Of course, new paper cups pose a whole new set of challenges for the chain, namely, how to keep that distinctive Styrofoam "feel" in a paper cup. Scott Murphy, Dunkin’s chief supply officer, told the Boston Globe that the chain worked with a design agency to mimic the same Styrofoam cup so that customers would have an easy transition. "It’s a little cheeky, but we can’t use foam, so we made a paper cup that looks like foam," he said. 

Of course, environmental groups are raising their eyebrows, thanks to the new cups' plastic lining on the inside. The problem? That plastic lining means those paper cups most likely will end up in landfills, and not recycled. Still, Murphy told the Boston Globe that this wasn't the "end-all" paper cup for the chain, and that more kinks needed to be worked out. Until then, your Styrofoam, landfill-loving cup is safe: "I don’t want to switch out of foam for something that is not better for our consumers, for our franchisees and the environment, for the sake of switching," said Murphy. 

Update: In a statement, Dunkin' Donuts clarified that paper cups without a plastic lining are not currently available in the industry: "Every paper cup that holds hot coffee, from Dunkin' Donuts and our competitors, have a poly lining to prevent leakages, and these cups are not widely recycled."

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