McDonald's Corp. is trying out alternatives to EPS cups, rolling out a double-walled paper hot cup in about 2,000 restaurants, mainly on the West Coast.
“At this time, this is only a test. Future plans have not been determined,” a McDonald's spokeswoman said in an email.
“McDonald's … continues to seek more environmentally sustainable solutions,” she said. “The objective of this test is to assess customer acceptance, operational impact and overall performance.”
McDonald's shocked the industry in 1990 when it stopped using EPS clamshells for its hamburgers.
However, Keith Christman, managing director for plastics markets with the American Chemistry Council in Washington, said he doesn't expect a similar outcome this time.
“We think EPS' attributes will lead to selecting EPS cups” in the McDonald's test, he said in a telephone interview.
Christman said ACC supports efforts to recycle EPS. Cups made from the material are 98 percent air and use only a third of the materials that paper cups consume, he added.
Officials at Solo, Dart and competitor Pactiv Food service did not comment on their business relations with McDonald's.
One industry expert said he is concerned whether the McDonald's trial will be fair.
“I hope their decision is based on good science and not just public relations,” said Larry Koester, a board member of the Society of Plastics Engineers environment division.
Koester said the plastics industry is losing the battle for public acceptance and lacks young advocates to rise through the system to carry debates as veterans retire.
PET is turning out to be a main competitor to EPS and thermoformed polypropylene, according to Koester. Single-wall PET is grabbing market share in beer and soda cups at sporting events.