Last week, McDonald's officials revealed plans to eliminate polystyrene hot cups in its US restaurants, all 14,000 of them.
The fast food giant has been piloting double-walled paper coffee cups in select locations for the last year and a half, and is now poised to make the complete move over the next few years.
Polystyrene cups and food containers are one of the most common items found littering our streets and waters. The material is easily airborne and prone to break into small pieces, making it hard to transport (even if disposed properly) and clean up after. It's also not easily recycled--food contamination is an issue and the market value for foam is very low.
Because of the chemicals involved in making polystyrene, there are also health concerns about the material, particularly during its manufacturing process, and once it has becomes litter in the environment.
In 2011 a proposal by As You Sow, a shareholder advocacy group, to phase out all polystyrene was supported by nearly a third of McDonald's stakeholders. McDonald's has limited its use of polystyrene packaging to cups and pancake platters since the 1990s.
Environmental advocates hope the chain's next move will include in-store cup recycling, similar to Starbucks' recycling program, and the phase out of other polystyrene containers.