Tim Hortons Roll Up the Rim to Win Cups

Comments 11 by Rebecca Bollwitt

A few years ago a co-worker of mine mentioned that back in his home province of New Brunswick someone started up a recycling facility in order to process Tim Hortons cups as they currently were not able to recycle them at regular plants. I thought that seemed a bit extreme until I looked into the issue and discovered that the venture was warranted.

Photo credit: Toban Black on Flickr

The Issue

Per the company’s website, it does state that the cups are not recyclable just anywhere, and actually nowhere West of Ontario and even if the majority of store locations are situation in that Province, it still does not provide answers for the rest of Canada. “The Tim Hortons coffee cup is recyclable where facilities exist, such as in Moncton, New Brunswick and Windsor, Ontario.” [Tim Hortons FAQ]

This has been a concern for years as this article from The Concordian indicates:

According to a 2004 litter survey conducted by Nova Scotia’s Department of Environment and Labour, Tim Hortons’ disposable cups are the most common item littering public spaces.

According to the survey, Tim Hortons is a significant contributor to North America’s litter pollution levels. And as the franchise expands, so does the amount of litter resulting from its operation.

In Nova Scotia, Tim Hortons cups accounted for 22 per cent of all identifiable waste. With 2,540 Tim Hortons restaurants in Canada, and another 273 now in the United States, the chain’s litter levels are continuing to rise.

At first it was the wax coating on the inside of the cup that caused the issue, then it was the plastic lids.

But in all honesty, litter is the visible part of the problem. The real issue is the sheer number of cups that end up in landfill, 1,000,000 a day in Toronto alone. [Canadian Content]

Now my first response is to encourage the use of travel mugs, however during Roll up the Rim to Win time, cups play an important role in this contest that captivates our entire nation.

The Contest

Many have argued that the cups should have nothing to do with the contest and that there should be a small scratch card instead [CTV] however in an email I received from Tim Hortons this morning, that wouldn’t be the best option either.

“Throughout the Roll Up The Rim contest, our take-out cups serve two purposes; one as the coffee cup, and the other as the contest “entry form”. If a customer has a hot beverage in a china cup, an entry form of some kind is still required, and in this case, it is the paper cup.

In the past we have investigated the option of having a scratch card rather than the roll up tab, however, having scratch cards printed would actually increase the paper usage because our cups are already going to be printed regardless of the contest, and thus, serve a ‘double purpose’. Nonetheless, a copy of your comments and suggestion for scratch cards have been forwarded to the appropriate personnel in our Marketing Department for review.”

Photo credit: markolson on Flickr

One positive note is that this year you can enter the contest without buying a single cup through their daily prize draw (although you do have to give out your name, email, and phone number).

But aside from the current event, the cups are still a big issue the rest of the year when it comes to litter, recycling and sustainability even with in-store options like china mugs.

… observations over a four-day period at the Tim Hortons on the corner of Sherbrooke and University St., Lau and Leung found that many paper cups were used needlessly, either because dine-in customers weren’t given china mugs, or because disposable cups were being used for “double-cupping” hot drinks. [2005 – The Concordian]

The Solutions

Essentially, it’s up to folks not to litter, up to Tim Horton’s to come up with a eco-friendly cup (which we know can be done) and up to municipalities to create processing and recycling stations that can handle all the double-doubles out there.

A wise move by Timmy’s, then to partner with Turtle Island Recycling and begin a Toronto recycling program of its own. Cup recycling bins will be available at select locations across the city, with a steady expansion across Toronto planned.

“People understand that we’re not responsible for litter,” Tim’s SVP, Corporate Affairs Nick Javor told me, ” but they want us to be a part of the solution.” Other green moves by Tim Hortons include a 10-cent coffee discount if customers bring their own mugs, and coffee grounds composting programs in select areas.

As for the Roll Up The Rim contest, Javor tells me it’s under review. If coffee cup recycling becomes commonplace across Canada, though, the earth-friendliness of the contest won’t be a question anymore. [PR in Canada]

It looks like out West we’ll have to find our own ways to be responsible with cup litter, at least until we can get a processor out here. I’m thinking, if there are charges now for the use of plastic bags in stores, why not do that as well for paper or plastic cup usage? Which brings us to a poll:

[poll id=”28″]

If you’d like to have your say, you can also sign this online petition.

11 Comments  —  Comments Are Closed

  1. paulWednesday, February 25th, 2009 — 8:03am PST

    until it becomes economically viable for companies to be “green”, they won’t. they’re not people, and have no morals or ethics (even though arguably, people do run companies) – they only have a focus on the bottom line. it’s up to consumers to show companies what will make them money, and as long as customers choose the least green option, nothing will change.

    it bugs me every time i walk past every coffee shop in vancouver and see people staying in the location but using a disposal cup – even outside of contests. if you’re not even leaving the coffee shop, why did you choose a disposable cup? is something wrong with a cup that can be used a second time?

    ya, disposal coffee cups are a hot issue for me, can’tcha tell 😉

  2. rachael chatoorWednesday, February 25th, 2009 — 8:09am PST

    With the large amount of Tim’s locations out West, I am surprised they don’t already have a recycling facility out here. Thats surprising.

    As always, very interesting post Rebecca!

  3. BethWednesday, February 25th, 2009 — 9:20am PST

    With respect to their comment that having a scratch card in place of the cup uses extra paper since people are already getting the cup: what about those of us who use travel mugs? I’ve actually gone into Timmy’s, got coffee in my travel mug and been offered a paper cup to be part of the contest. When I refuse, it always results in a very confused look by the server, “You don’t want to enter the contest??” Nope – I guess I just don’t need a free donut that badly.

    My other thought on the scratch card option is that it would lose the fun of the contest – the contest is fun because it’s novel – lots of contests have scratch cards, but no one else has you rolling up the rim! I’m sure they don’t want to give that up, because it’s something that distinguishes their brand. Hopefully they’ll get to work on producing “green” cups so that we can roll up the rim without the guilt!

  4. CarlaWednesday, February 25th, 2009 — 9:23am PST

    Why roll up when now I know I can enter online without buying coffee. Thanks for that tip!

  5. Lesley EdwardsWednesday, February 25th, 2009 — 1:31pm PST

    When I looked at the petition at http://www.thepetitionsite.com/1/tim-hortons—making-the-cups-recyclable there was a message saying it is closed.

  6. jduyWednesday, February 25th, 2009 — 3:17pm PST

    While there aren’t as many Tim’s out here on the West Coast, there are billions of Starbucks. This photo a friend took around Xmas of a “festive” Starbucks-cup-stuffed garbage can on a downtown Vancouver street really hit the cup issue home for me: http://www.flickr.com/photos/lilylovesphotos/3128724249/

    While the lids ARE recyclable (I know, I’ve done it), I don’t think the cups are. A quick look on the SB site says nothing other than they contain 10% recyclable material. A google search turns up a blog post from someone who asked SB directly and was told b/c of the paper-plastic composition, they are non-recyclable.

    But even if they were recyclable, would people bother? I think the best route would be compostable/biodegradable cups for everyone in the industry — Tim Horton’s, Starbucks, McDonalds, 7-11, etc. etc. — so that we don’t have to rely on lazy folks (who forget to bring their own cups anyway — myself included) to recycle the cups in the first place.

  7. NicoleWednesday, February 25th, 2009 — 7:20pm PST

    I have to say that I love that Tim Hortons has the ceramic dishes/mugs for dine in – awesome! More than I can say for Starbucks. And they made the switch from the styrofoam soup containers to the new cardboard ones, which are at least better than styro.

    Thank you for doing this post Miss604!! Much appreciated – the more awareness, the better.

    Beth – I have had the same experience.

    I’d like to see Starbucks put out blue bins, since ppl don’t have the option of ceramic dine-in mugs. Most ppl just won’t recycle unless it is easy for them.

  8. Daniel VasquezThursday, February 26th, 2009 — 9:27pm PST

    too bad to hear about Tim’s as it is my favorite coffee.

    Outside of the roll up the rim to win promo, I always take my personal mug when I buy coffee…it saves on paper/waste and usually get more coffee.

  9. JessicaMonday, March 2nd, 2009 — 9:53am PST

    Rebecca, do you know anything about the North Vancouver Timmys that was recycling their cups? I believe it was a pilot project but I don’t know where that went.

    On the other side, I’ve taken to asking for my Starbucks “for here” so that I can save a cup when I have coffee there on the weekends. ssI’ve also converted the bf – yay! It still surprises me the number of people who drink their entire beverage while in the store, but do not ask for a reusable mug, or bring their own.

  10. Miss604Monday, March 2nd, 2009 — 9:56am PST

    @ Jessica, I believe they were offering seperate bins for garbage/waste and cup recycling however as far as I know, there aren’t any proper processing plants on the West Coast for Tim’s cups.

  11. Scott GarriochThursday, March 18th, 2010 — 12:18am PDT

    I just googled “roll up the win waste” and this is where I first arrived. I’ve been researching and looking into this issue lately, and was inspired to create a short film entry into the Recycling Council of British Columbia’s contest entitled “Trailer Trashed.”

    There are tons of great shorts that explore the issue creatively, and it’s good to see people are smartening up a little. I wish the government would lead the way a little on this one. It’s clear that companies see their disposable cups as potential product placement – an empty Starbucks cup at a Skytrain station is supposed to inspire thoughts of “I could sure use a coffee. There’s definitely a Starbucks nearby.” What if companies weren’t allowed to put their logos on cups? What if it was REALLY encouraged to drink in with porcelain mugs (as it is in Asia – if you use choose disposable there’s a deposit on them). What if Tim’s had a “free coffee if you bring in a go cup” day…or even a 50 cent coffee day. Would that be too much to ask of our American owned flagship of hoser culture?

    Ironically, Tim Horton’s is among the sponsors for RCBC’s Trailer Trashed competition.

    Check out the entries here:


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