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change—one cup at a time 

Our need for coffee is a huge burden on the environment. Setting aside the energy expended to get the beans to us here in Atlantic Canada, there’s also the issue of all those disposable cups. With a Timmy’s on every corner, it’s easy to point the finger at the popular coffee shop chain, especially as regular garbage cans overflow with the readily identifiable coffee containers. In 2004 Tim Hortons cups were identified as the most commonly littered item in the province.

The problem with Tim Hortons cups is they are a paper and plastic combination, making them a particularly labour intensive recycling conundrum. In 2005, Halifax’s mayor Peter Kelly went on the record, saying that Tim Hortons cups couldn’t be recycled, which is still true in the HRM, but in cities such as Moncton and Windsor, ON, there are the facilities available for recycling the cups.

And things may be going that way here in the near future.

“I’ve had so many calls about this,” says Darren Welner, the slightly harried sales and marketing coordinator for Scotia Recycling. In Yarmouth-area Tim Hortons, Scotia Recycling is partnering with the coffee shop giant to recycle those troublesome cups, with a program called “Making A Difference in Yarmouth, One Cup At A Time.”

“It’s a pilot project to do for a few months to see if it’s feasible,” says Welner, who identifies an obstacle to recycling having to do with the wax in the cups as well. They will be sent in bulk to paper mills in Hantsport, where they’ll be tested to see whether their constituent materials can be salvaged, presumably the way they do it in Moncton. Welner says there’s some “good fibre” in those cups that can be useful. “Tim Hortons is really jumping at ,” he says.

We at The Coast like the idea, too, but in the meantime, before they work out the bugs, there’s always the option of carrying your own stainless steel, portable mug around with you to use. Consider the Trident Café on Hollis, that won’t give you a stamp towards your free coffee if you use one of their disposable cups, or Just Us! on Spring Garden and Barrington, that has a similar system. Imagine if all coffee places were like that.

Taking that logic further, consider that the Hamachi restaurants are using biodegradable, edible take-out containers for their sushi, and Emma’s Eatery in Eastern Passage and Jamieson’s in Cole Harbour also offering recyclable containers for people who take out their food.

And for those places that don’t, you could bring your own Tupperware and ask them to put the food in it. Just keep a bin in your backpack or satchel or purse, and there it is. It’s the same logic as carrying your own cup, really.

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