Tuesday, February 15, 2011

For here or to go, or from here to eternity?


Whatever happened to the logic behind the question "For here or to go?" in franchise coffee shops? Walk past any Tim Horton's (by far the nation's worst offender) and you will notice that every one of their "for here" customers is drinking from a paper cup. The option of having your coffee served in a ceramic mug seems to have fallen entirely out of favour, and plenty of irate people want to know why. A quick online search of "Tim Hortons + cups + garbage" will bring up reams of rants on the subject, including this blog. There are even reports of people offering their own reusable mugs to have filled, only to have their coffee first poured into a paper cup, then dumped into the person's mug. The paper cup 'measure' was of course immediately tossed into the trash. Time used: 3.5 seconds. This offense seems to be most commonly committed while ordering from the drive-through, in spite of specifying the use of a travel mug upon ordering. Why do these shops make it so difficult for people to make a small gesture of goodwill toward the environment? If a company's bottom line rules so hard that mere seconds wasted can adversely affect their profits, then I think more people need to wake up to the hypocrisy of their special blend of Can-con/hockey-mom/fishing-dude marketing spin, not to mention the fact that their environmental policy, as outlined on their website, doesn't seem to be trickling down to their counter staff. Why aren't they being held more accountable? A statistic quoted in a Maclean's article cited that 22% of the litter in Nova Scotia could be identified as a Tim Hortons product.

The company website does offer this PDF on their community and environmental initiatives, which outlines a commitment to the following:
  • 5% reduction in packaging within our supply chain and manufacturing operations by 2012.
  • Work to achieve a solution so that our paper cup is accepted in recycling and composting systems in local municipalities.
  • Currently recycling (or composting) our cup at over 400 locations and working to increase these recycling options in other jurisdictions.
On a positive note, two professors at the University of Manitoba have begun research into using discarded coffee cups - currently not accepted in most recycling plants - to turn into biofuel. An article in thesheaf.com states that Tim Hortons cups, because of the components and processes used to manufacture them, work better than other cups , such as those from Starbucks.
Should this process actually work in the long run, will people start buying more take out coffee in order to "save the planet"?

Others who address this subject:
coffeehabitat.com

killthecardboardcup.com