Austin-based Environment Texas scored a major win on June 6 after ThunderCloud Subs agreed to phase out all polystyrene — also known as styrofoam — cups by the end of 2018. The news comes less than a week after the advocacy group launched a May 30 petition asking the homegrown chain to use a more ecologically friendly alternative.
In a release, Environment Texas detailed the dangers of styrofoam — chief among them that it never biodegrades. According to research cited by the organization, 8 million tons end up in oceans yearly, where they wind up being ingested by marine wildlife in the form of microplastics, threatening hundreds of species.
The problem is particularly prevalent in the Lone Star State. Environment Texas pointed to recently released research, presented at the March International Marine Debris Conference, that revealed Texas beaches to be littered with more plastic trash than any other state.
“We’re not only polluting our oceans, we’re also polluting our local creeks and lake,” said Environment Texas executive director Luke Metzger in the release. “Our plastic pollution problem starts here, it destroys our local environment first, and we need to act.”
To wit, Environment Texas used the ThunderCloud announcement to launch a new campaign, Wildlife Over Waste, to pressure state leaders to ban take-out cups and containers.
That may prove to be an uphill battle for the advocacy group. Similar municipal efforts to ban single use plastic bags have been met with some hostility by the state legislature. In 2017, Edgewood Republican Bob Hall introduced legislation aiming to prevent cities like Austin from enforcing their bag bans.
In January, the Texas Supreme Court heard arguments in Laredo Merchants Association v. The City of Laredo, a case that could strike down such laws across the state.
Still, public pressure has prompted major chains like McDonalds and Dunkin’ Donuts to announce they too are ditching styrofoam cups. With 21 locations in Austin, and a handful in surrounding areas, ThunderCloud uses far less polystyrene than those global giants, but as an iconic local business, it does set an example for other quick-service eateries.