After dialogues with As You Sow’s Waste program, McDonald’s and Dunkin’ Donuts have taken steps to phase out polystyrene foam beverage cups and replace them with more eco-friendly options.
After As You Sow filed a shareholder resolution resulting in a 29.3% vote in 2011, McDonald’s agreed to a pilot program in 2,000 stores. This proved successful, and they recently confirmed they will replace all foam hot beverage cups with paper at its 14,000 U.S. outlets and in several large international markets. Dunkin’ announced it will phase out foam cups within 2 to 3 years but has not decided what materials to replace them with.
“McDonald’s and Dunkin’ have taken a significant step forward by moving to phase out foam cups,” said Conrad MacKerron, Senior Vice President of As You Sow and manager of our Waste program. “But it can’t be the last step. Now they need to incorporate more recycled fiber in food service packaging and develop on-site systems to collect it.” The Pret-A-Manger quick service chain has already developed on-site recycling at scores of U.S. locations.
Using less foam packaging will reduce pressure on the marine environment, which is under siege from plastics. Polystyrene is not widely recycled and has become pervasive in some marine areas, carried through storm drains to the ocean. It breaks down into small indigestible pellets that birds and marine mammals mistake for food, resulting in their deaths. Scores of cities in California have banned or restricted the use of polystyrene food packaging, and Mayor Michael Bloomberg has proposed a foam packaging ban in New York City.
The Waste program continues to press companies to examine the sustainability of their consumer packaging. For 2014, it will engage major brands like Kraft and Procter & Gamble to phase out non-recyclable packaging like plastic pouches and take responsibility for recycling post-consumer packaging.