Global icon to replace polluting foam with paper alternative in all 14,000 US outlets following shareholder resolutionMcDonald’s has agreed to use paper cups rather than polystyrene foam cups to hold hot drinks at all its 14,000 US outlets following a concerted campaign by green groups.
The move comes after sustainable shareholder advocacy group As You Sow filed a shareholder proposal in 2011 asking the company to stop using the foam, which had already been phased out from its hamburger boxes in the 1990s.
After the resolution gained 30 per cent of shareowners’ vote McDonald’s last year trialled double-walled paper hot cups at around 2,000 restaurants mainly on the West Coast. Having dubbed the pilot successful, the company last week announced the paper cup will now become the standard hot beverages cup at all its US outlets.
Polystyrene is not widely recycled in the US and is increasingly finding its way into the oceans through storm drains, where tides and currents pummel it into small, indigestible pellets that can be fatal to marine wildlife. A number of cities in California have outlawed or restricted the use of the material, while New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg has proposed a city-wide ban. Meanwhile, what was hailed as the world’s first coffee cup recycling plant opened earlier this year in the UK.
Conrad MacKerron, senior vice president of As You Sow, congratulated McDonald’s on ditching polystyrene but urged to company to consider taking further action to keep up with its rivals.
While McDonald’s uses recycled fibres for its food containers, bags, and napkins, Starbucks uses 10 per cent recycled paper fibre in its paper hot beverage cups and has committed to recycle all post-consumer paper and plastic cups discarded in company-owned stores by 2015. The company also offers a discount for customers who bring reusable beverage containers into stores.
“McDonald’s has made a great start by phasing out foam,” MacKerron said in a statement. “We hope they will also incorporate recycled fibre in the cups and develop on-site systems to collect and recycle food packaging.”
As You Sow is also in talks with the Dunkin’ Donuts chain, which currently uses foam hot beverage cups. The company announced a two to three year phase out plan in June, but has yet to reveal what replacement materials will be used.
This article, written by Will Nichols, originally appeared on the Business Green website.