Whatabout that styrofoam?

Texas’ favorite fast food chain is being asked to make changes to how it serves its food.

Activists are pressuring San Antonio-based Whataburger to end its use of foam cups and containers in favor of materials friendlier to the environment.

More than 50,000 people have signed a petition calling on the popular fast-food chain to stop using polystyrene foam, commonly known as Styrofoam, in its cups and food containers, Environment Texas Executive Director Luke Metzger said.

The petition was delivered Monday to Whataburger’s San Antonio headquarters and to restaurants in Austin and Corpus Christi by representatives for Environment Texas, Surfrider Foundation’s Texas Coastal Bend chapter and Care2.com.

“We think that they can find a good solution that meets customers’ needs but moves away from such harmful products,” Metzger said outside Whataburger’s headquarters on the North Side.

Whataburger, which has more than 800 stores in 10 states, said it is looking at alternatives to Styrofoam cups “that keep drinks at the right temperature, but we have a lot to consider from a quality and supply perspective when meeting our customers’ expectations.

“In the meantime, we continue to urge customers to properly dispose of our cups,” the company said in a statement.


McDonald’s pledged to phase out foam cups by the end of the year. Dunkin’ Donuts said earlier this year it would replace its foam cups in favor of double-walled paper cups by 2020. Starbucks Coffee Co. announced plans in July to eliminate the use of single-use plastic straws in favor of strawless lids or straws made from other materials by 2020.

“Companies are very conscious of their brand,” Metzger said. “They’re, of course, wanting to keep their customers. And that’s why I think we’re going to see companies like Whataburger hopefully join the ranks of McDonald’s and Dunkin’ Donuts and do the right thing here.”

Whataburger is talking to Environment Texas and the others about this, as they should. It’s a simple request, for a clear purpose, to do what others are now doing. Whataburger may have some questions, and they would surely need to phase in a change like this over time, but I can’t think of any reason why they wouldn’t want to do it. I hope they make that decision soon.

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10 Responses to Whatabout that styrofoam?

  1. Bill Daniels says:

    It IS a simple request, for a clear purpose. It’s demonstrating control, demanding fealty. It’s the same reason the show choir at Princeton can’t sing a Disney song anymore….a desire to just flat our ruin anything traditional and beloved.


    I hope Whataburger has enough backbone to say no to this. This is not really much different than Blue Bell Ice Cream, another Texas institution. All the competitors shrunk their packaging, all the competitors paid the Kosher tax. Blue Bell stands alone and doesn’t change just because the competition does, and Blue Bell thrives.

  2. brad says:

    Bill is right.

    First it will be getting rid of Styrofoam, then what next?

    Look what change has gotten us in the past: child labor laws, women voting, cleaner water + air, black people in the White House.

    We need to be careful and nip this in the bud now.

  3. Robbie Westmoreland says:

    “The Kosher Tax”
    Bill, you have got to stop making your Stormfront credentials so obvious.

  4. Jen says:

    I don’t live anywhere near a Whataburger, but I find their cups in the street and on the storm drains. It is a real problem.

  5. Bill Daniels says:


    I agree with you. Discarded drink containers are a frequent source of litter in Houston, including Whataburger cups, and that trash does clog storm drains, and it does pollute our bayous and bays. The problem is with the people who litter, not with the cups and bottles themselves. There are many different subcultures in Houston that, while very different, all share the trait of thinking there is nothing wrong with littering and illegal dumping.

    Instead of haranguing drink sellers, maybe we should be haranguing, harrassing, and ticketing people who litter. I support going hard after people who litter and illegally dump. It’s probably the biggest quality of life crime in Houston these days.

  6. Jules says:

    The problem is the styrofoam itself, whether properly disposed of or not.

    Nobody thinks Whataburger switching to different cups will cause people to litter less.

  7. Jason Hochman says:

    @Bill: I didn’t realize that Styrofoam was such a beloved and time honored tradition.

  8. Bill Daniels says:

    @ Jason:

    It really isn’t even about the styrofoam. It’s just simple extortion, a show of force, no different than Jesse Jackson going to a business and saying, if you don’t make a donation to my group, something bad might happen to you.

    “Companies are very conscious of their brand,” Metzger said. “They’re, of course, wanting to keep their customers. And that’s why I think we’re going to see companies like Whataburger hopefully join the ranks of McDonald’s and Dunkin’ Donuts and do the right thing here.”

    Translation: That’s a nice brand you have there. Real shame if something bad happened to it.

    Virtually every single business uses styrofoam in some way. What do you think things are packed in for shipping? Virtually all restaurants that sell take out food use styrofoam food containers. These people just chose Whataburger today to flex their muscles. Why not Pappasitos? Why not Stripes gas stations?

    What do you think will happen if Whataburger tells this group, sorry, no, we’re not going to stop using styrofoam cups? Do you think they will just say thanks for considering our request and leave quietly?

    This is about power, and probably money. and I hope Whataburger stands their ground here. Hell, I’d like to see Whataburger or other business go even further and take the fight TO Activist Texas. Start making demands against Activist Texas and be very public about it. I bet every single thing in their office came shipped in styrofoam. I’m afraid I will have to insist that they agree to never buy anything that comes shipped in styrofoam. Activist Texas needs to provide us a written plan to reduce or discontinue styrofoam use, and really, to do the right thing, they need to make a significant donation to my non profit group, to show good faith.

    It’s not about the cups.

  9. Manny Barrera says:

    Bill, it is people caring about the environment we live in.

    Will it reduce littering probably not, but you probably knew that and changed the reasoning to meet your criteria to critize anything that you don’t like with your right wing crazy reasoning.

    If they do switch, boycott them and show them up, Bill.

  10. mollusk says:

    Bill, styrofoam packing peanuts are becoming less and less of a thing. These day shippers typically use bubble wrap, small inflated pillows, or good old paper – none of which go all over the place like the peanuts do.

    Along with the fact that it doesn’t break down, a problem with styrofoam (and thin plastic shopping bags) is that it blows out of the trash unless it’s held down… a form of automatic littering, if you will.

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