Monday, March 16, 2009

Rrrrrroll Up the Junk

What do you do when you finish Rrrrolling up the rim?  Toss the cup into the garbage?  Toss it into the recycling?  Separate the lid from the cup and put each into its respective bins?

 Turns out the only “correct” thing to do is throw the cup into the garbage—in Toronto anyways. 

Tim Hortons cups (as well as Starbucks, Coffee Time and all those other places that sell take-away coffee) are not recyclable in Toronto, and neither are the lids. 

I was confused at first – the lids have the recycle symbol on them so I’ve always separated the lids from the cups when tossing out my trash.  In researching into it, though, Toronto doesn’t recycle the lids because if they get into other paper recyclables the plastics could contaminate the paper and cause a whole world of problems. Toronto could get a machine to separate the lids from the cups, but it would cost $3 million just to get it and another $1 million a year to work it.  God forbid people just use their brain and separate the two themselves.  

People think that the cups are recyclable because, in Toronto, all recyclables go into the same bin; plastics, papers, cans, everything.  Since the cups are paper with a small plastic coating, it should be alright…but it ain’t.  The fact is in Toronto alone 1,000,000 paper coffee cups are thrown away every day.  If we multiply that by the Monday-Friday working crowds and high school kids off on weekends, that is at least 6,000 000 cups thrown out a week, on average, in the city of Toronto.  Disgusting.  Worse still, Tim Hortons cups do not contain any recycled content.  Every cup is 100% brand new materials.  If trees could talk… 

In some cities - even cities close by – you can recycle the cups so long as they’re separated from the lids.  How is it that Canada’s biggest city can’t implement this system?  

Tim Hortons has partnered up with Turtle Island Recycling to install special ‘cup recycling’ bins in certain stores around the city; cups thrown out there will be recycled and made into products such as roof coverings, etc.  But I’m going to go ahead and guess that more than ¾ of the cups that get filled at Timmy’s leave the building. These bins are a small start but more of a “quiet down, we’re doing something” than a real leap in the right direction. 

Something has to change.  Making the cups recyclable would be a good step.  Making them biodegradable and compostable would be even better.  How is it that small, one-store coffee shops can use biodegradable cups, containers and cutlery, yet these big corporations can’t?  Change the plastic lining to a biodegradable corn-based one or something.  And for god’s sake, once the cups DO become recyclable, people need to separate the cups from the lids.  Really, it takes one second.

 Another solution would be to charge people for using the disposable cups similar to the recent Toronto law stating that as of June 1 grocery stores would charge consumers five cents per plastic bag used.  Some stores already put it into effect (like the ValuMart by my work) and already I’ve seen a difference in my co-workers; they don’t want to pay an extra five cents, so they bring their own bag.  When consumers see a sign saying “you will be charged per bag” they take notice…no one wants to throw money away!

If Tim’s starts charging people five cents per cup they use, maybe it would make people think differently.  This, combined with the fact that they already do give a 10 cent discount if you use a refillable mug, could really do some good.  Maybe?

 The real solution: bring your own mugs.  I’ll be the first to admit that I hate carrying around a travel mug; they’re bulky, sometimes they leak, and they’re hard to hang on to when you’re on the subway. But really, it’s the right thing to do.  Plus, they’re really pretty these days.  I read somewhere that if just 50 people a day in every Starbucks across the country brought their own mug, they would save 150 000 cups a day.  Not a huge number, comparatively, but not a small on either. 

 So bring your own mugs to coffee shops, people!  Even just a few times a week can make a difference.  And while you’re at it, get your own re-usable water bottles too. 

Don’t even get me started on the stupidity of water bottles…

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