Dunkin' Donuts expects to make a decision by the end of this year on the company's years-long search for an alternative to using expanded polystyrene for its iconic coffee cup.
Dunkin' Brands Group Inc., which owns both Dunkin' Donuts and Baskin-Robbins, has been testing the Versalite brand polypropylene cup from Berry Plastics Group Inc., and has made positive comments about that product.
“Based on our efforts to date, we believe that expanded polypropylene (No. 5 plastic) cups are the best available alternative to foam,” the company said in its latest sustainability report.
PP cups have performed well in testing and are accepted in many municipal recycling programs, the company said.
“However, while the polypropylene cup has met many of our criteria, the existing lid for this cup has not met our standards and has received strong criticism from our guests and our franchisees. Also, while the cup is accepted in many municipal recycling programs in the U.S., the lid is not. We expect to have a new, recyclable lid available for market testing within the next 12 to 18 months,” the report states.
For now, the company said, it will continue with tests and “until we believe we have found the best solution based on cost, performance, commercial viability and environmental impacts,” the company said.
Dunkin' Brands expects to have a timeframe for adopting a new cup by the end of this year.
“Our journey to find an alternative to the foam cup has spanned more than seven years, during which we have examined every commercially available alternative to foam,” CEO Nigel Travis said in the sustainability report.
Testing of the PP cup and a double-walled paper cup continues in limited markets, the company said.
While much attention has been given to the potential new cup for Dunkin' Donuts, the company also reported that it is phasing out efforts to recycle its traditional EPS cups.
Launched fully at all company-owned restaurants just last year, that recycling program was unable to capture many of the cups because most are carried out for drink consumption. “As a result, we experienced low guest participation throughout the in-store recycling program.”
“We also found continuous problems with commingling of recycling and trash, despite improved signage and guest education, and this presented a challenge for our crew members in charge of waste removal,” the report states.
With the transition away from EPS, the company has removed recycling units from its company owned restaurants. Plans are to develop a new single-stream recycling program at company stores this year.
On the Baskin-Robbins side, the company also said it started to roll out the use of new recyclable PP spoons in late 2014. Baskin-Robbins, in 2010, said it was going to explore alternative materials for what it calls its “famous pink spoon.”