Return-It adds Starbucks to Vancouver cup program

Starbucks Canada has joined Return-It’s expanded cup recycling pilot program in the City of Vancouver this spring.

Originally launched in February 2020 with Metro Vancouver, Tim Hortons and A&W, this pilot program is British Columbia’s first initiative to recycle cups in commercial/public buildings and public spaces. The pilot intends to address the over 1.6 million coffee cups disposed of in the City of Vancouver annually at industrial, commercial and institutional (IC&I) locations and public spaces.

The program was put on hold due to Covid-19, shortly after its 2020 launch.

Metro Vancouver, Tim Hortons and A&W will continue to support the pilot, which was paused shortly after its launch due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

While coffee and other plastic cups are collected and recycled through the province’s residential recycling program, more than half of hot and cold cups that are disposed of as garbage in Vancouver come from street locations, public spaces and public and commercial buildings. This pilot is intended to help address this gap.

“We are delighted to be relaunching this much needed pilot this spring and have Starbucks join our existing partners in demonstrating their leadership in helping to identify a solution to reduce waste,” said Allen Langdon, president & CEO of Return-It.

“This pilot and expanded partnership will help protect our natural environment and keep single-use cups out of landfills.”

Lids, sleeves and all types of disposable cups – hot or cold – will be collected in Return-It’s collection bins.

Building a template

Managed by Return-It, the pilot will evaluate recycling end markets for the items collected, test the marketability of different disposable cup materials (such as laminated cups), encourage public participation, and determine the viability of a broader, permanent program. The pilot will establish a scalable template that can be rolled out in other jurisdictions.

This cup recycling pilot also supports the City of Vancouver’s new single-use bylaw that came into effect on Jan. 1, 2022.

“We know we can achieve more in partnership with others, which is why we are excited to support the Return-It pilot program – a program our partners (employees) in Vancouver voted to support,” said Ross Anderson, head of social impact, public policy and sustainability, Starbucks Canada. 

“We endorse the City of Vancouver’s goal to reduce single-use waste, and we will be using the proceeds from the single-use cups fees to support various sustainability initiatives at Starbucks that are important to our customers and partners (employees), including this pilot that can further help our industry find a recycling solution for disposable cups.”

Merlin Plastics, a recycling and processing company in New Westminster, B.C., will also be collaborating with the project to support recycling the plastic lids collected.