B.C. pilot will test coffee cup recycling

Customized collection boxes will test which format works best.

VANCOUVER, British Columbia – Return-It and Metro Vancouver are working alongside Tim Hortons and A&W Canada to pilot British Columbia’s first initiative to recycle coffee cups in commercial and public buildings.

Currently, coffee cups are collected and recycled through the province’s residential recycling program, however, more than half of hot and cold coffee cups that are disposed of as garbage in Vancouver come from IC&I sources. This pilot will measure and identify a recycling solution that diverts this material from the landfill. 

“At last count, Vancouverites were throwing out 2.6 million poly-coat paper cups a week,” said Pete Fry, Vancouver city councillor, Metro Vancouver Zero Waste Committee and National Zero Waste Council.

“These cups represent a significant amount of otherwise recyclable material that is heading to landfill or the incinerator. Ultimately, we need to change our relationship with single use items – but in the meantime, diverting this stock from the waste stream is an essential intervention and this industry-led pilot is innovative, convenient and worth celebrating.”

Available to consumers today, the pilot program seeks to find a recycling solution for disposable coffee cups that are not included under the residential recycling program. The initiative includes evaluating a new collection network at commercial and public buildings in five downtown Vancouver locations, with customized bins designed to determine the most effective signage and configuration.

The public is encouraged to be part of the solution by placing their used coffee cups in the bins provided. Materials – including coffee cups, lids and sleeves – collected during the pilot will be used to test and develop new recycling solutions.

Managed by Return-It (a program of Encorp Pacific (Canada) a federally incorporated, not-for-profit, product stewardship corporation managing beverage containers), the pilot will evaluate recycling end markets for the items collected, test the marketability of different disposable coffee cup materials (such as laminated cups), encourage public participation, and determine the viability of a broader, permanent program.  

Recycling Alternative will support the operations of this pilot and The City of Vancouver is supporting the program by providing building access and maintenance staff.

The six-month pilot – which accepts all brands of coffee cups – will include a market analysis to determine the long-term viability of a broader program.

“The world’s attention is increasingly focused on the need to reduce waste, and the same goes for BC,” said Allen Langdon, president and CEO of Return-It.

“Our province has always been at the forefront in recycling and diverting waste from landfill within Canada, so pioneering this program in Vancouver represents a natural progression in our leadership role.”

This initiative reflects public demand for convenient recycling options in the food and beverage sector. The vast majority – 83 percent – of Vancouver residents believe the foodservice industry should provide recycling options for their single use cups, according to local polling firm Research Co. This pilot aims to take the first steps to develop and address the large number of cups coming from the IC&I sector.

Members of the public are encouraged to check www.Return-It.ca for the latest bin locations.