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.
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.
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 â€œentry formâ€. 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.”
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]
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 Timmyâ€™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.
â€œPeople understand that weâ€™re not responsible for litter,â€ Timâ€™s SVP, Corporate Affairs Nick Javor told me, â€ but they want us to be a part of the solution.â€ 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 itâ€™s under review. If coffee cup recycling becomes commonplace across Canada, though, the earth-friendliness of the contest wonâ€™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:
If you’d like to have your say, you can also sign this online petition.