Toronto retailer says coffee cup ban ‘unrealistic ‘

Earlier this month, the City of Toronto discussed a crackdown on coffee cups and take-out food containers. Toronto wants to divert 70 per cent of garbage from landfill by 2010, but many in the food service industry feel that an outright ban on take-out containers and poly-lined cups would have disastrous effects on them.

Tim Horton’s vice-president of senior affairs Nick Javor says expecting their customers to make such a drastic change in their daily routines won’t work.

“A large part of our business is predicated on people using take-out cups. So to have that be banned would be outrageous,” he said.

Javor is frustrated that the poly-lined cups are not acceptable in the blue bins in Toronto, while other municipalities such as Owen Sound and Windsor have recycling and composting programs specifically for those products.

“In Ontario, 50 per cent of the entire cost of recycling…is charged back to the industry and …we pay into this fee…, but our packaging is not recovered in all blue boxes across Ontario,” he said.

Javor says even in municipalities that have recovery programs for such items, the company still has to pay a private hauler to transport the recyclables to the existing facilities to be processed.

He added that his customers who bring their own travel mugs to Tim Horton’s receive a discount of 10 cents for each cup of coffee they purchase.

Stephanie Jones, vice-president of the Canadian Restaurant and Foodservices Association, says that the paper cup ban would drive up the costs for business operators.

“It will not…see us move very much closer to the 70 per cent waste diversion target of the City of Toronto,” she said. “We’re talking about…adding a tax to the City of Toronto consumer.”

Jones says the food-service industry is prepared to work with retailers to improve the recycling of rigid plastic containers, provided the city accepts them in the blue recycling bins.

Heather Marshall, a campaigner for the Toronto Environmental Alliance, says the city has limited power to control packaging waste. She said the city cannot control the design, but it is responsible for the waste.

“Municipalities across Ontario are spending millions of dollars managing waste,” she said. “I’m not too concerned if the industry has to spend a little bit more money to clean up their packaging.”

She said the city has successfully diverted 42 per cent of garbage. In order to reach 70 per cent by 2010, 250,000 tons of garbage must still be removed from the waste stream.

Marshall said reaching the target will definitely take industry support.

Jim Downham, president and CEO of the Packaging Association of Canada, is concerned with food safety and contamination prevention.

“You cannot say that everybody who brings their coffee cup into the coffee shop is going to have a clean and hygienic coffee cup. So who’s going to take that liability on?” he said. “I’ll tell you who’s going to get blamed – the people that make the coffee.”

Downham is also frustrated that the city won’t consider alternative solutions.

“Typically in places like Europe or Japan…they burn the waste, recover the energy and… reheat homes from it.”

The city’s bylaw to ban, tax or put a deposit on the paper cups will go before the Licensing and Standards Committee sometime in November. The public will have the opportunity to respond to the recommendation, verbally or in writing at the committee meeting.