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Students call on Dunkin’ Donuts to end use of foam cups

Scott Murphy, chief supply officer for Dunkin’ Brands, responded to a question by Maya Rubin of the Park School’s Styrofoam Club.

Rose Lincoln for The Boston Globe

Scott Murphy, chief supply officer for Dunkin’ Brands, responded to a question by Maya Rubin of the Park School’s Styrofoam Club.

Students at the Park School in Brookline love their Dunkin’ Donuts. They’re less enamored of the cups Dunkin’ uses for its hot beverages.

Members of the school’s Styrofoam Club delivered a petition with more than 230,000 electronic signatures on a flash drive Friday morning to executives at the company’s headquarters in Canton, calling on Dunkin’ to stop using disposable polystyrene foam, commonly (and incorrectly) referred to as Styrofoam, and switch to more environmentally friendly alternatives.

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Dunkin’ has implemented the use of paper cups in its Brookline locations, and a recyclable polypropylene cup in its Somerville locations, towns where the use of foam in takeout food establishments has been banned. Cities such as Seattle and San Francisco made the move to ban foam years ago, and more recently Washington, D.C., and New York City have approved bans on the product.

Polystyrene foam is not biodegradable, is rarely recycled, and most frequently ends up in landfills, where it doesn’t break down, or floats among other trash in waterways and oceans.

Last September, two Park School fifth-graders, Kaori Sakuari and Sami Rome, decided to get involved. They started the Styrofoam Club, wrote a petition on change.org, made parody music videos of popular songs, and held meetings during recess to raise awareness about the harmful impact foam products have on the environment.

With the help of Ted Wells, a teacher at the independent, coeducational school for students up to ninth grade, they decided to call Dunkin’ and ask for a meeting.

After several tries, Dunkin’ agreed to meet.

“I’m really proud of the kids,” Wells said. “I hope this is a partnership rather than a confrontation. . . . We love Dunkin’, they’re a great company, but maybe we want to help them be a little better, specifically their cups.”

The petition calls on the company to “switch to more Earth-friendly cups” by Earth Day, April 22, 2015.

Club member Luke Randolph, who will be entering fifth grade in the fall, said, “Styrofoam is really bad . . . you don’t need to find perfect cups, good is still better than Styrofoam.”

In a statement, Michelle King, Dunkin’s senior director of global public relations, said, “We look forward to meeting the students in person and engaging in an informative discussion.”

The chain’s parent company, Dunkin’ Brands, said it is sticking by a commitment it made in 2012 to “roll out an alternative to foam within 2-3 years” and that the company “continues to examine every commercially available cup and material.”

Wells said the students were pleased with the outcome of the meeting. “They took the kids very seriously,” he said. “We agreed on almost everything, except the timetable, but they’re working hard at it and care about it like we do.”

Lauren Mitchell, who will be entering fifth grade at the school in the fall, said she and the other club members were excited to meet with Dunkin’ executives. “Kids don’t have a big voice,” she said. “This year, we’ve found a way to have a voice.”

Nina Joy Godlewski can be reached at nina.godlewski@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @NinaJGodlewski.
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