Tim Hortons’ coffee cups have finally gotten a makeover after 20 years with no changes. The new lids, unveiled this week, are made from polypropylene—a plastic that is, according to the company, 100 percent recyclable.
The company says its new lids are the result of two years of experiments involving 30 million beverages, thousands of guests, and 12 research studies. It claims that polypropylene is “accepted in 95 percent of recycling programs across Canada.”
Tim Hortons president Alex Macedo has said the new, deeper lid not only “reduces spills but has a reduced carbon footprint.”
But in a statement released Tuesday, environmental organization Greenpeace said the new lids are a single-use plastic, and though it is “technically considered 100 percent recyclable [it’s] not a solution, as we know that only around 9 percent of plastic that is recyclable is actually diverted for recycling in Canada."
In a 2018 audit, Greenpeace declared Tim Hortons among the top five worst polluting corporations in Canada. The report also named Nestle, PepsiCo, Coca-Cola, and McDonald’s as the worst offenders, responsible for 46 percent of branded trash collected along Canadian shorelines in one of their surveys.
Statistics like these have prompted some backlash against the popular coffee chain, including a #BetterCup campaign, started by three Canadian teens and tweens, calling on the company to design a more environmentally sound cup. The petition has more than 171,700 signatures, with a goal of collecting 200,000.
Though these cups may technically be accepted, the cities of Calgary and Hamilton are asking residents to toss recyclable coffee lids in the trash. According to Calgary’s residential recycling guidelines, plastic coffee lids belong in the garbage “even if they have a recycling symbol on it. The lids are too small and light to be sorted properly at the recycling facility.”
Toronto does accept brown plastic coffee lids, though it cites “difficulty in sorting, separating, and marketing the material to recyclers.”
Tim Hortons’ green initiative doesn’t end at these new lids. The company says it will continue to test environmentally friendly paper coffee cups, strawless lids for iced coffee, and wooden stir sticks. There are plans to introduce a new reusable cup this summer, which will cost as little as $1.99 CAD.
The low-cost reusable mug option is, according to Sarah King of Greenpeace Canada, “a step in the right direction,” though she says it doesn’t go far enough. “Why not start a mug-share program at key locations and eliminate single-use products altogether? Mug-share programs already exist amongst independent coffee shops in cities like Montreal, so if Tim Hortons wants to lead in this changing context, it needs to step up its sustainability game.”
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