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A&W Canada trials fully compostable coffee cups at Toronto stores

A&W becomes Canada’s first major quick-service restaurant chain to pilot the fully compostable Zero Cup as tackling single-use waste returns to prominence following the pandemic

The fully compostable Zero Cup is designed by UK-based ButterflyCup | Photo credit: A&W Canada

Takeaway customers at Toronto branches of A&W will hit the streets with a curious looking coffee cup from this month. The Canadian quick-service restaurant chain is piloting the Zero Cup at, a single-use coffee cup that contains no plastic liner and a foldable top that negates the need for a plastic lid.
The coffee cup concept was designed by UK-based ButterflyCup, with A&W becoming the first major chain in North America to pilot the design.
According to the 1,000-strong restaurant chain, around five million disposable coffee cups are used in Canada every year, with the majority ending up in landfill. A&W says it is aiming to significantly reduce its impact by avoiding the non-recyclable plastic liners found in most single-use coffee cups.
“Each year, A&W Canada serves millions of takeout drinks, so finding a more sustainable single-use cup solution is one way we can make a big difference,” said Susan Senecal, President & CEO of A&W Canada.
“Our new Zero Cup is an exciting step in our journey to reach zero waste. Part of achieving that mission is pioneering the innovations that people need to live more sustainable lives. This new cup is one small way Canadians can take small, simple actions, one day at a time.”
Disposable coffee cup waste has long presented a huge challenge for coffee shops balancing the desire to reduce single-use waste with operational efficiency. Although the pandemic saw most businesses pause initiatives such as re-usable cup schemes for hygiene reasons, waste reduction has once again become a priority.
In March 2022, the Starbucks announced it wanted to create a “cultural movement” towards reusable cup use across its 34,000+ stores around the world. The coffee chain is already piloting re-usable cup programmes in six markets globally.
Meanwhile, Europe’s largest coffee chain, Costa Coffee, has been piloting its own reusable cup scheme in the UK since September 2021.
In 2018, UK-based Boston Tea Party became one of the few coffee chains in the world to completely ban disposable coffee cup use across its 25 stores.
A&W operates more than 1,000 restaurants across Canada, making it the country’s largest quick service restaurant business to trial fully compostable coffee cups.
In October 2021, A&W reached an agreement with UK-based coffee and food-to-go chain, Pret A Manger to sell the latter’s food and coffee products at its stores in Canada.  

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