Toronto eyes recyclable coffee cups

City mulls plan to require coffee shops to provide a paper lid for disposable cups
By Kris Scheuer
Originally published Nov.13.08

The city’s shining a spotlight on the disposable coffee cup you’re holding and the estimated 365 million of them Torontonians throwaway each year.
City staff is grappling with how to divert that cup from landfill and who should pay to make the hot drink
cups and lids compatible with the existing blue bin.
A recent city hall report recommended a mandatory 20-cent discount for people who bring their own mug to a
coffee shop for their java fix. It also gave retailers such as Tim Hortons and Starbucks until the end of next year to ditch the plastic lid and develop a paper alternative to top their paper coffee cups
These proposals unleashed a heated nine-hour debate the Public Works and Infrastructure Committee on Nov. 12. After all that,
councillors voted to defer a decision until next April (since extended to fall/09).
So now what?The extended deadline will allow more time for the city, retailers, paper mills and private recycling companies to hash out a solution to the city’s concerns, said committee chair Councillor Glenn De Baeremaeker.
The combination paper
cups and plastic lids aren’t accepted by paper mills for recycling, which creates the problem, according to the city. And while Torontonians could separate the cup from the lid to be reprocessed individually, De Baeremaeker says residents don’t always take the city’s messages about recycling to heart.

“I’ve gone on the back of garbage trucks and I see paper, plastic bottles and aluminum cans, and that’s after 20 years of education,” De Baeremaeker said Nov. 14. “The best an easiest solution is one industry-wide standard.
“What we are saying is you must (produce) a
coffee cup that we can put in the recycling box.” 
One option debated at committee is to purchase a $3 million optical sorter (not including $1 million annual operating costs) to separate the polystyrene lid from the paper cup. De Baeremaeker says that option is still on the table, but it’s a costly one.
Some of the 30 people who made deputations to the committee expressed concern industry will not develop a paper lid but instead turn to existing lids and
cups made of white foam “Styrofoam” instead because the city is set to begin collecting the material in blue bins on Dec. 8.
“Don’t let Styrofoam
cups come in (to blue bins),” says Franz Hartmann, executive director of Toronto Environmental Alliance. “For 20 years, we have been waiting for industry to take responsibility for their behaviour. They have had plenty of time to come up with alternative packaging.”
De Baeremaeker says not to worry.
“The industry said their customers don’t want foam (
cups).” 
Nick Javor, senior vice president of corporate affairs for Tim Hortons, said the
coffee chain’s execs agree. 
“We are committed to the same goal to keep products out of landfill,” he said after the debate. “There needs to be more time to get people together.” 
Tim Hortons doesn’t support Styrofoam
cups, he said, but they do support the recyclable paper option. He couldn’t commit to Tim Hortons developing a paper lid.
The onus is on packaging manufacturers to develop a product the city can add to the blue bin, De Baeremaeker said. 
“I see it 100 percent on the manufacturers’ shoulders,” he said. “They have a moral and ethical responsibility to provide us with products that don’t harm us or the earth.”
And who should pay to dispose of that packaging? 
“The retailers and people who make a profit (from) the packaging should pay for all the waste
disposal costs. They make the garbage we consume.” 
Industry currently pays 50 percent of the net cost to run the province’s recycling programs. 
City staff will report back on the hot drink packaging and debate the issue at the April 8, 2009 works committee.
(Since publication in Nov/08, the deadline was extended again and city council is expecting staff to report back on consultations with industry this fall.)

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3 responses to “Toronto eyes recyclable coffee cups

  1. Catering Supplies, so do you offer a paper lid and cup for coffee and tea? If so, any distributed in Toronto that the governnment or businesses may be interested in?

  2. Catering Supplies

    It is a great idea in theory, having paper coffee lids would eliminate some of the risk of contamination commonly used as an excuse for not recycling. More clearly has to be done in the area of sorting in order to stop products like this making their way to the landfill.

  3. As a reporter and Torontonian, I am interested to see how this policy works out. I try and use my reusable mug and avoid plastic or paper cups, period. At work, no problem it is always with me. But on my days off I don’t drink as much tea, so I have yet to purchase a second reusable mug. I don’t drive, so I have been lazy to carry something more than my gym, work and lunch bags daily. I will try to change that soon.

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