'Recyclable' cups from Starbucks and Tim Hortons heading to landfills
- Starbucks and Tim Hortons state they offer in-store recycling bins for paper cups and ceramic mugs as an alternative to disposables. However, it was uncovered in a recent CBC Marketplace investigation that the cups were actually heading for the landfill. And reporters observed that employees were not offering ceramic mugs to customers.
- Investigators deposited cups with tracking devices into store recycling bins at 14 Tim Hortons and 14 Starbucks in Toronto. They recovered seven of them at each chain, in garbage bins destined for landfills, and could not locate any other cups. None of the employees in 10 store locations that the investigators entered offered ceramic mugs instead of takeout cups.
- Starbucks has recycling bins at 47% of company-operated stores in the U.S. and Canada, and Tim Hortons offers recycling at 25% locations, according to the companies’ reports. But most recycling facilities do not accept disposable hot beverage cups, said Canada Fibers' Mark Badger to CBC. Badger explained they are costly to process as they are made of paper and plastic, requiring the materials to be separated.
According to Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, Canadians drink 14 billion cups of coffee every year. In 2010, Canadians used about 1.5 billion disposable coffee cups.
"To find out that in some areas at least the bins are out there but they (the cups) are going right into the garbage, that's outrageous," Conrad MacKerron, senior vice president of the environmental promoter, As You Sow, told Marketplace.
According to Statistics Canada's latest data, the trash that Canadian households tossed increased by almost 7 % since 2004 — to 9.6 million tons in 2012, despite a growing number of recycling programs. The surge in trash correlates to a surge in convenient items that are strategically marketed, like plastic bags often containing produce that stand upright in a grocery store's freezer, on full display.
The confusion and frustration surrounding recycling — especially coffee cups — is an issue in the United States, as well.
"We do zero waste in our city hall so police do not have a trash can at their desk, they only have a recycling container, but they didn’t know that their Starbucks cup itself is compostable so it goes in the green [bin], the plastic lid is recyclable so it goes in the blue, but the straw is neither and it goes into the waste," explained Kim Braun, Resource Recovery & Recycling Manager at City of Santa Monica, to Waste Dive in August. "And these are the things, when you get to the ultimate every day materials that you have, where you ask, where is it going to go? ... So when the sorting facilities – and it depends on your contractor and what the contract is for the residents that provide the service – they have to really get out there and make [residents] understand what it is that they need to do with their materials."