McDonald’s is bringing back the use of foam cups in some Chicago-area stores, according to the Chicago Tribune. The fast-food chain mostly phased out use of the polystyrene cups, which isn’t as easily as recyclable as other plastics, in 2013, though the company still uses them for iced tea, McDonald’s spokesperson Becca Hary told the paper. She wouldn’t say why the cups are being used again in Chicago or if they are being used in other areas of the country.
Hary said the company is continuing to work with suppliers on sustainable packaging options that reduce its “sourcing footprint.”
The use of polystyrene at restaurants is banned in some other cities, including – soon – New York. The Department of Sanitation in NYC stated in May that “no food service establishment, mobile food commissary, or store shall possess, sell, or offer for use single service articles that consist of expanded polystyrene,” beginning in Nov., 2017 (via The Gothamist). New York had banned the use of these containers in 2013, but the ban didn’t go into effect until the middle of 2015, and was then almost immediately overturned.
Polystyrene makes up just a fraction of McDonalds’ overall packaging, and the company has never actually promised to get rid of the plastic altogether, though environmental groups have urged it to. Other fast food joints have come under the microscope for using polystyrene cups, as well, including Dunkin’ Donuts and Chick-fil-A.
Packaging in all its forms is a topic of concern, with most companies attempting to reduce the environmental impact of their packing materials in some way. Most recently, Hershey’s announced that its new display cases use 32% less material.