If you don’t know what double-cupping is, you’re probably from away and prefer hot tea in a china cup to a large iced mocha with a double shot. 

Apparently, many Dunkin’ Donuts fans are in a twist because the ubiquitous Dunkin’ franchises are about to end the long practice of double-cupping. For those of you from Boise or Burbank, when a Dunkin’ customer buys iced coffee or iced tea in a clear plastic cup they can ask that it be double-cupped — the plastic cup tucked inside a Styrofoam cup to insulate the iced drink. As Dunkin’ noted this week, “This is a habit that was born in, and is mostly seen, in parts of New England.”

Take that, California.

The idea of encasing a non-biodegradable plastic cup inside a non-biodegradable plastic foam cup to make the ice last longer and, presumably, to keep the plastic cup from sweating in hot weather, was clever. It was probably hatched by a Dunkin’ customer, but it surely warmed the hearts of Styrofoam cup manufacturers.

However it was conceived, the idea caught on, and millions (more likely billions) of Styrofoam cups have been used solely for insulation purposes — then thrown away. 

In an effort to soften the blow for its java junkies, Dunkin’ launched an advertising campaign with the theme, “The Double Cup is Breaking Up.”

The website www.earthday.org notes how much we love our Styrofoam, way beyond just double-cupping at Dunkin’. The website says Americans throw away about 25 billion – with a “B” – Styrofoam cups every year. The worldwide production of polystyrene (the generic name for those cups and food containers) is more than 14 million U.S. tons.

We’re as guilty as the next coffee guzzler, although the switch to reusable travel mugs has been easy enough. And the move by many coffee shops away from Styrofoam to paper cups isn’t without problems. Most of those paper cups have a thin plastic lining which keeps the paper from quickly getting soggy but presents a less-than-perfect material for recyclers. 

Ultimately, the solution to all this waste – and one that double-cuppers in mourning might want to consider – is buying a tall, sturdy, well-insulated, reusable travel cup that will keep the iced coffee chilled and the hot coffee steaming for hours.

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