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Dunkin' Drops Foam Cups, Effectively Ending Practice Of 'Double Cupping'


The coffee and doughnut chain known as Dunkin' says soon its New England stores will stop using coffee cups made of polystyrene foam; they cite environmental concerns. The Massachusetts-based company says by next year all its stores will get rid of those cups. That likely means the end of double cupping - a coffee custom that's especially popular in New England. WBUR's Adrian Ma explains.

NEHEMIAH CAMPOS: Can I offer you the...

ADRIAN MA, BYLINE: At a Dunkin' franchise in Boston, manager Nehemiah Campos is tearing open a box.

CAMPOS: This one here is the Styrofoam cup.

MA: Technically, they're polystyrene foam cups, some of the last he'll be using at his store. These iconic vessels were designed to hold hot coffee, but it turns out they're also pretty good at holding other cups. Campos demonstrates by taking a clear plastic cup meant for iced coffee and sliding it into a large foam one. They fit together like hand in glove.

CAMPOS: This is the way they do (laughter). Right?

MA: This practice is so common among Dunkin's New England patrons it has a name - double cupping.

CAMPOS: Customers start this about, I'd say, seven years ago.

MA: And it's since caught on.

How often, would you say?

CAMPOS: (Laughter) I'd say 100%. Iced coffee - they'll request that, yeah.

MA: That includes customers like India Crawford, a double cup devotee.

INDIA CRAWFORD: I usually get a medium iced coffee - three caramel swirls, two coconut shots, cream, no sugar.

MA: Holy moly.

CRAWFORD: (Laughter).

MA: In addition to keeping drinks cold and hands dry, Crawford points out that foam cups have some ergonomic benefits.

CRAWFORD: Some people have, like - they don't have no grip, and the coffee, the clear cups, will slide out their hand, so they like to use the Styrofoam cups.

MA: Still, she's on board with the change.

CRAWFORD: If they're trying to do more to make the environment better, I'm all for it. I'm all for it.

MA: Other regulars, like Laura Dennison, are torn.

LAURA DENNISON: Just heard about it on the news this morning (laughter), and I was like, oh, that's going to be a problem.

MA: Dennison uses a wheelchair. She'd just bought a large hot tea and says the thick foam cup makes it easier for her to carry.

DENNISON: Sometimes I cannot always fit a hot beverage in my cup holder, so I hold it between my legs. So it's a safety concern for me.

MA: But Dennison gets why the company is changing over to paper cups - because it's more eco-friendly, right? Well, about that - the inside of the new paper cups are lined with plastic, just like a lot of other single-use cups, including the kind you get at places like Starbucks. But that plastic lining also makes them hard to recycle, which means a lot of them will probably still end up in a landfill.

For NPR News, I'm Adrian Ma in Boston.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Corrected: November 30, 2019 at 11:00 PM CST
A previous headline and Web introduction to this report incorrectly said the cups that Dunkin' is dropping are made out of Styrofoam. They are actually made out of polystyrene foam.
Adrian Ma