Business

Kids to Dunks: Scrap the Styrofoam

A fifth grade club that began on the wooded Brookline campus of the Park School has spawned a nationwide movement urging Dunkin Donuts to stop using styrofoam.
A fifth grade club that began on the wooded Brookline campus of the Park School has spawned a nationwide movement urging Dunkin Donuts to stop using styrofoam. Pat Greenhouse/Globe Staff

A grade school club that began on the wooded Brookline campus of the Park School has spawned a nationwide campaign urging Dunkin’ Brands to stop using styrofoam.

Last school year, a group of Park School fourth and fifth graders (now headed to fifth and sixth) formed the Kids Styrofoam Club during recess. They subsequently launched a petition that asks the company to eliminate styrofoam from its Dunkin’ Donuts stores by Earth Day of next year. The same petition has now garnered 250,000 signatures on Change.org.

The club and its faculty advisor will deliver the petition to Dunkin’s Canton headquarters Friday morning. The middle schoolers from the independent school are also scheduled to meet with Dunkin’ staff after they drop off the petition.

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Styrofoam has generated condemnation from environmental activists because the plastic material fills landfills and decomposes extremely slowly, potentially choking animals that eat it by accident. Activists also say it can release unsafe chemicals that can seep into food.

Styrofoam is banned in Brookline and Somerville. Complying with those regulations, Dunkin has removed styrofoam from its premises in those two cities, replacing its styrofoam cups with paper, even though they are said to be worse than styrofoam at retaining heat.

Dunkin’ stated during 2012 that it was exploring ways to “roll out an alternative cup that meets our cost, performance and environmental criteria in 2-3 years.”

“We are committed to finding a long-term alternative to the iconic Dunkin’ Donuts foam cup that meets our guests’ expectations, is affordable for our franchisees and reduces our environmental impacts,” Dunkin’ Director of Global Public Relations Michelle King says in a statement to Boston.com. “Upon learning of the petition, Dunkin’ Donuts wrote a letter to the students of the Park School to further educate them about our shared objective to find an alternative to the foam cup. Additionally, we offered the opportunity for the students to visit our corporate headquarters for a private tour and a meeting with senior executives from our supply chain and corporate social responsibility departments to personally answer questions and discuss our sustainability efforts. We look forward to meeting the students in person and engaging in an informative discussion.”

Club advisor Ted Wells, a teacher at the Park School and the club’s faculty advisor, says the students are “passionate about helping the environment.”

“They know that companies like Starbucks and Jamba Juice do not use Styrofoam, and are excited and thankful for the opportunity to discuss their concerns with Dunkin’ Donuts,” Wells said in a statement.

This article has been updated to include comments from Dunkin’ Brands. A previous version of this article relied on information from previous reports.

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