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Two Major Companies Phasing Out Polystyrene Foam Packaging


The lodging industry should pay attention to and replicate efforts by major restaurant companies to eliminate polystyrene foam packaging. Last month, McDonald’s Corp. agreed to end the use of such packaging globally by the end of this year. According to As You Sow, rarely recycled, expanded polystyrene foam used in beverage cups and takeout containers is a frequent component of beach litter, breaking down into indigestible pellets, which marine animals mistake for food, resulting in deaths of marine animals. McDonald’s phased out foam cups for hot beverages in the United States in 2012 but continued to use them in foreign markets like Hong Kong and the Philippines. It also continued to use foam for cold beverages and food trays in some U.S. markets. Polystyrene has been widely used for single-use containers across the world for decades, but in recent years its negative environmental and health profile have led major companies to drop it. Its hazardous constituent chemicals have been shown to accumulate water borne toxins in a short time frame, and the International Agency for Research on Cancer has determined that styrene, used in the production of polystyrene, is a possible human carcinogen.

Earlier this month, Dunkin’ Donuts, a leading retailer of hot, brewed coffee, announced plans to eliminate all polystyrene foam cups in its global supply chain beginning in spring 2018, with a targeted completion date of 2020. In U.S. restaurants, Dunkin’ Donuts will replace the foam cup with a new, double-walled paper cup. The majority of Dunkin’ Donuts’ international markets are currently using paper cups, and the brand will work with its franchisees to eliminate foam cups from the remaining international markets by the 2020 goal. The double-walled paper cup is made with paperboard certified to the Sustainable Forestry Initiative Standard.

Polystyrene foam packaging is still prevalent in hotels around the world—in breakfast areas and as to-go containers.