The University of Connecticut Public Interest Research Group (PIRG) is launching a Stop Styrofoam campaign targeted at the Dunkin Donuts on and near campus.
“Styrofoam is such a harmful material to the environment, particularly the Styrofoam that Dunkin uses which has a coating on the outside which makes it impossible to burn and impossible to recycle,” Justin Kaiser, the Stop Styrofoam campaign manager and fifth-semester political science major, said.
Kaiser said that before attending a PIRG retreat in February, he didn’t realize the profound importance of the initiative.
“It was this issue that even me who was working on an environmental campaign didn’t really get, and then three articles later I was completely transformed, I had a completely different perspective,” Kaiser said.
Kaiser said he was glad to head the campaign because he believes it is an important issue that most students probably do not consider a prominent environmental problem.
“I looked at this campaign as something a lot of students probably don’t know a lot about…and as soon as they learn about it, they’ll see it as important as I see it as,” Kaiser said.
Styrofoam cups pose such a problem for the environment because they cannot be recycled or burned safely, Kaiser said.
“All these cups don’t go anywhere,” Kaiser said. “You put it there and it stays.”
Kaiser said he looks forward to opening a dialogue with the manager of the Dunkin Donuts in the Student Union and Storrs center.
“We would like to stop it on a broad scale, but we’re focusing on Dunkin for this semester,” Kaiser said.
In 2010, Dunkin announced that it would be phasing out their use of Styrofoam in their Serving Responsibly report.
However, they have yet to find a suitable alternative to the Styrofoam cup according to a Packaging and Recycling Update report released in May.
The report said that the alternatives are significantly more expensive that the Styrofoam cups and do not keep beverages hot and customers’ hands cool satisfactorily. The report also said that customers did not like the lids on either option.
“While we remain committed to finding a long-term alternative to our current cup and will continue to test all available cups and lids, we are not prepared to make the transition at this time,” the report said. “We will, however, work to find a solution that works for the environment, our customers and our franchisees.”
The campaign has already generated 350 petition signatures, Kaiser said.
Kaiser said UConn PIRG will be organizing a call-in week for students to call into Dunkin’s corporate headquarters and read from a script about why they want the company to stop using Styrofoam.
“I think it will show Dunkin that the general public isn’t apathetic to this, that they do care,” Kaiser said.
The organization will also be tabling on Wednesday and Friday, Kaiser said.
UConn PIRG will also sponsor a social media campaign in which students are encourage to tweet: “Stop Styrofoam” and tag Dunkin’s corporate Twitter page.
“The more Dunkin’s corporate page and hotline hear us, the more apt they will be to change,” Kaiser said.
Kaiser said he thinks these efforts will be successful.
“I think they will absolutely be responsive to this because they had admitted that this is a problem and I think this final push, particularly from the UConn student body,” Kaiser said.
UConn Dining Services has a program in which students can receive a discount for their coffee if they bring their own mug to a university-run café.
The Dunkin Donuts and Starbucks franchises on campus also offer discounts.
Americans use 25 billion Styrofoam cups each year according to carryyourcup.org. (http://www.carryyourcup.org/get-the-facts) Dunkin serves 1.8 billion cups of both hot and iced coffee globally every year.
“If Dunkin were to (stop using Styrofoam) that would take a big bite out of that,” Kaiser said.