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Toronto refuses to back down from coffee cup controversy


November 7, 2008
By Allison Hanes National Post

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papercupsNovember 7, 2008 – Toronto is willing to take on Tim Hortons, refusing to back down from
its threat to outlaw disposable paper cups with plastic lids despite
the coffee chain’s opposition.

Toronto is willing to take on Tim Hortons, refusing to back down
from its threat to outlaw disposable paper cups with plastic lids
despite the coffee chain’s opposition.

“I’m astounded that we
have companies that say, ‘You know what, we don’t want to give you
things that can be recycled,’ ” said Glenn De Baeremaeker, chair of the
public works committee, which this week introduced a strategy to slash
the amount of packaging in landfills. “We produce 365 million coffee
cups a year and right now all of them are going into a garbage dump.
That’s crazy. That’s not sustainable.”
papercups

On Tuesday, the city
gave Tim Hortons and other hot-drink vendors until the end of 2009 to
find a paper lid for their cups or switch to Styrofoam, which can soon
be thrown in the blue box. The ban — which must be approved by city
council — would facilitate Toronto’s recycling program because plastic
lids “contaminate” the paper fibre it sells to tissue mills.

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But
a Tim Hortons vice-president said the Canadian coffee company would
“absolutely not” consider changing its cup because it already can be,
and is, fully recycled — including in cities right on Toronto’s
doorstep.

“Bottom line is, our cup is recyclable as we speak.
The lid is recyclable,” said Nick Javor, senior vice-president of
corporate affairs. “So to ban the cup outright because the current city
of Toronto system doesn’t accommodate it, we’re obviously incredibly
dismayed.”

Indeed, Hamilton collects paper cups through its
composting program, said Pat Parker, the city’s manager of solid waste
planning.

“The paper coffee cups are accepted in our green
cart program. Styrofoam ones go in the blue box,” she said. “The lids
all go in the blue box.”
People are supposed to detach the lid from the cup, but if they don’t they can be sorted later.

“We don’t seem to have too much problem,” she said. “They get removed at the composting facility through a screening process.”

York
Region, which takes in the waste from Vaughan, Newmarket and Aurora,
accepts paper cups in the blue box. The lid is supposed to be separated
beforehand. If it is not, a regional spokesperson said, there is some
contamination that the user of the paper fibre has to deal with later.

By
Toronto’s own admission, it’s not that the city can’t recycle paper
cups with plastic lids, it’s that it simply doesn’t want to.

A
city report on the proposed packaging policy said Toronto could buy an
optical sorting machine to separate the two materials, but the
equipment would cost $3-million and the processing could run about
$1-million a year.

And Toronto is skeptical that people would
follow the instructions to separate the two pieces on their own, said
Mr. De Baeremaeker, which is why the goal is for industry to produce an
all-paper or a Styrofoam cup that could be tossed in the blue bin whole.

Toronto
could recycle plastic lids and paper cups separately if people
disconnected the parts right now, he added, but predicted if the city
announced the addition of the items to the recycling regimen
immediately more than half would still come in attached.

“When
people say — and it’s a legitimate question — ‘Well if you just
separate the lid from the cup, isn’t the problem solved? Yes it is
solved if everybody does it. But our experience after 20 years of
recycling is not everybody does it.”


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