It’s no secret that Canadians LOVE coffee. Third in the world on highest per capita consumption per litre in 2015, and consistently in the Top 10! A sustainable and profitable relationship for the coffee giants… but not for the environment. 

Millions of cups are thrown away every week

Every week millions of disposable cups are consumed in Canada. In Vancouver alone, 2.6 million cups are trashed weekly. And like most disposable plastic packaging, coffee cups and their lids are recycled very seldomly. This is partly because paper cups are lined with polypropylene plastic film and the lids are often made of coloured plastic, which makes them difficult to recycle. But also because these cups are most often consumed outside the home, and therefore end up in public garbage cans or overflowing on the sidewalks.

Various coffee giants like Starbucks know they have a plastic problem, but the measures announced or implemented to allegedly tackle it- such as discounts for customers who bring their own reusable cups – are so far from being enough to encourage a profound change in waste reduction and incentivize changes in consumption habits. 

But with recent advice of health experts noting that reusables are safe with basic hygiene protocols, and Plastic-Free July already here, it’s time to talk reusable solutions!

A cup-share program, what’s that?

Many initiatives such as Vessel, Cuppy or La Tasse have been launched in North America and elsewhere in the world to eliminate the problem of disposable cups at the source. These are primarily returnable reusable cup programs for independent coffee shops, and are spreading throughout major cities. This is a safe option from a health perspective, as the cups are washed in professional-grade dishwashers.

And the concept is pretty simple! Here’s how it works: 

  • You order your coffee in a returnable cup and either pay a deposit or not depending on the cup-share program.
  • You enjoy your coffee or other beverage and take the cup back to any participating café for refill or return.
  • You get your deposit back if you provided one, and have the satisfaction of not creating any waste.

While the reusable cup is not a revolutionary idea in itself, the fact that you no longer have to worry about taking your own cup everywhere with you is a significant step forward, at least for people like me who forgot their cup all the time. With a network of coffee shops like Starbucks or Tim Hortons has, this model is a perfect way to drive sector-wide waste and pollution reduction, while supporting greener reuse systems.

Now, if you don’t have a reusable cup program at your favourite coffee shop, you may be wondering what other option is available to you? I’m getting to that.

Using your own reusable cup during COVID-19 is safe… with contactless coffee! 

With the pandemic, many businesses have had to adapt to protect their employees and customers by limiting direct contact as much as possible. You’ve probably experienced this with contactless payment in supermarkets and other businesses. Contactless coffee is based on the same principle. If a cafe near you were to employ contactless coffee, it could look something like this:

  • You order your drink by placing your cup on the counter and then step back a good distance away.
  • The employee prepares your drink in separate containers and pours it into your cup without touching it.
  • You pay (with contactless payment!) and you leave with your drink in your reusable cup and the satisfaction of not having created any waste.

Simple to set up, efficient and safe for everyone.

Breaking free from plastic

We can’t and won’t let single-use plastic creep back into our lives and communities where progress was being made to kick it out. This Plastic-Free July we need to remind big plastic polluters and major producers of single-use plastic products and packaging that we’re still heading towards a plastic-free future.

Let’s start by questioning Starbucks about its refusal to allow reusable cups in its coffee shops. 

If this company replaced its disposable cups with a reusable cup-share program and offered contactless coffee to its customers, the company could prevent billions of throwaway plastics from filling landfills and polluting the environment. Tell Starbucks you want reusables now!