The middle of 2020 is an important time for fast food restaurant Dunkin' as two efforts directly impacting the company's use of plastics expect to be fully rolled out.
The Canton, Mass.-based company, which recently dropped the "Donuts" from its name, is out with a new plan to transition from polystyrene to polypropylene lids by mid-2020.
That's the same time frame for finalization of the company's switch from expanded PS cups to double-walled paper cups for hot drinks in the United States.
The EPS cup had long been an iconic part of the Dunkin' experience, but the company signaled a few years ago that it wanted to move away from that material due to recyclability concerns.
That's the same rationale Dunkin' is citing for replacing PS lids with PP lids.
Double-walled paper cups already are in many markets around the country as the company continues to roll out their use. Along the way, the company also tested use of expanded polypropylene cups but ultimately opted for paper.
"Our transition to paper cups will remove 1 billion foam cups from the waste stream annually," said Karen Raskopf, chief communications and sustainability officer in the company's newly released sustainability report.
EPS has come under increased scrutiny, especially in the foodservice sector, because of the relative difficulty to recycle the material, compared with our resins and substrates.
PP has emerged in recent years in popularity, and the overall trend in the recycling markets is to capture more and more of that material. PP still has a long way to go to meet the recycling tonnage posted by both PET and high density polyethylene.
"For plastic, increasing the recyclability and reducing our consumption is a top priority. We remain committed to finding a long-term sustainable alternative to our single-use plastic packaging, including straws that meets our guests' expectations and reduces environmental impacts," the company said in the report.
International locations also are transitioning to paper cups, Dunkin' said.
"The majority of Dunkin's international markets are currently using paper cups, and we will work with our franchisees/licensees to eliminate any remaining foam cups by our 2020 goal," the report said.
The change from EPS to paper cups eliminates the use of 19 million pounds of PS, the company said.
While Dunkin’ is positioning its move to PP lids as part of a sustainability push, a group called The Last Beach Cleanup expressed concerns.
Jan Dell, an independent engineer with the environmental group, raised questions about the availability of PP recycling in communities and whether there is enough interest from material recovery facilities to handle them.
“While Dunkin’ may not have another material ready for use as lids yet, they should not perpetuate the myth that the PP ... lids are ‘recyclable,’” she said in a statement.