COFFEE CUP RECYCLING
The statistics are sobering, as jolting as that first sip of coffee. Some have estimated that over 3.5% of Vancouver’s overall waste is coffee cups. I know that we are a city of coffee, but that many coffee cups in waste and landfills? There has to be a better way to deal with this.
Currently, there 2 problems that impact the number of coffee cups being recycled.
THE PROBLEM WITH COFFEE CUP RECYCLING
1) Officially, coffee cups and lids cannot be recycled.
Now this just seems absurd, doesn’t it? Plastic bottles can, but cardboard cups cannot. This is primarily due to the plastic interior coating used to make the cardboard retain liquid. Current manufacturing processes and corresponding recycling capabilities are not consistent. The plastic coating contaminates the paper recycling process.
Rules have changed somewhat in recent years, and you can now place your personal paper cups in your curb-side blue box. Typically these cups are then added to general paper recycling where A SMALL AMOUNT of the plastic interior coating does not contaminate the recycling process.
Just recently MMBC – Multi Materials BC – a stewardship responsible for the recycling of several types of materials has begun to accept personal amounts of these at select depots free of charge.
2) There is no incentive for change
Paper cup manufacturers, businesses that serve their beverages in them and we – the consumer – have no incentives, no rewards and no penalties to cause us to change our behavior. All efforts to switch large portions of the population to using re-usable cups have failed to modify behavior in any measurable way. We all still love our paper cups.
Recognising this as a fact and creating a solution based on that reality is what we need.
The undisputable fact is that we need coffee cup recycling processes that can deal with the volume of coffee cup waste we create and we need better options for paper cups that are recyclable.
Easily said, not so easily done. The Coffee Cup Revolution – The Binner’s Project is working to change all of that, and we are a proud supporter of this initiative. Their goals are to raise awareness of the coffee cup waste epidemic and to propose solutions that support not only the environment but the community as a whole. Their 2014 & 2015 1 day project has shown that by creating a refundable deposit the binner community can and will collect this “trash” and bring it into recycling depots.
With that proof, what is needed is to create the same system for coffee cup recycling that exists for bottles and other materials that can be applied to the recycling of disposable paper coffee cups and their lids. This requires that either a current Stewardship assume responsibility or a new stewardship needs to be created.
A stewardship manages the function of charging the producers / sellers / consumers a deposit on the container. Those funds are collected by the stewardship, then paid out to the depots as the empties are returned by the public for a refund. Funds are also used to develop more efficient ways of collection, sorting and handling this unique waste stream.
The paper cup industry also needs to assume responsibility for providing the consumers with options that can be easily recycled. It just doesn’t sit right that our choices as a consumer are to bring our own reusable mug, use a container that is not recyclable or to do without our beverage. This is the current situation, and most of us are choosing the paper cup that is available to us.
When technology can figure out how to recycle batteries, it most certainly can figure out how to build a paper cup that can be fully recycled.