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Tim Hortons joins major coffee chains in Canada for re-usable cup scheme

Canada’s largest coffee chain joins Starbucks, A&W Canada and McDonald’s Canada as part of the Return-It re-usable cup scheme for a six-month trial across 20 stores in Vancouver

Encorp Pacific has re-launched its re-usable cup scheme in Vancouver with Tim Hortons among its partners | Photo credit: Tim Hortons

Canadian non-profit Encorp Pacific has re-launched its re-usable cup scheme in Vancouver with the backing of market leader Tim Hortons following a pause during the pandemic. 
First launched February 2020, the six-month Return-It scheme also counts major coffee operators, Starbucks, McDonald’s and A&W Canada as partners. It allows customers to pay a $4 deposit plus tax to borrow a reusable cup which can then be returned at any of the participating stores or at one of 11 Return-It stations located across the city.
Return-It will take on the role of collecting, washing, sanitising and returning the cups to participating companies for customers to re-use.
In a press release Tim Hortons said would be trialling the initiative at 20 coffee shops by the end of 2022 and all of its stores in Vancouver by the end of 2023.
Once the pilot concludes, Encorp Pacific says the results will be analysed to help evaluate a scalable solution for a reusable cup programme in Canada that is convenient and helps consumers to reduce single-use waste.
“We are excited to be working alongside our partners to make a quantifiable difference in keeping single-use cups out of landfills and to provide consumers with a more convenient option for reusing cups. We’re always looking for innovative solutions that will improve recovery rates and benefit British Columbians and this programme will hopefully act as a scalable template that can be rolled out in other communities,” said John Nixon, President & CEO, Return-It.
Approximately 82 million single-use cups were thrown away in Vancouver in 2018, accounting for 15% of litter on the city’s streets.
The Return-It pilot supports the City of Vancouver’s new single-use bylaw that came into effect on 1 January 2022, which levies a CA$0.25 ($0.20) cup fee on disposable cups.

A similar levy was introduced in the Republic of Ireland in April, where a €0.20 ($0.22) charge for disposable coffee cups and a total ban on their use by sit-in customers at cafés and restaurants was introduced.

A similar law in South Korea has made it mandatory for large branded coffee chains to charge a refundable deposit for disposable coffee cups, although smaller café businesses are allowed to opt out of the scheme.
It is hoped that the momentum built by the Return-It pilot will drive further action across the Canadian hospitality industry. Coffee chains in the country have already undertaken a number of initiatives to encourage more sustainable business practices, with Tim Hortons planning to expand its reusable and returnable cup programme to 20 restaurants by the end of 2022 and to all of Vancouver by the end of 2023. The Ontario-based chain also plans to trial a plastic-free molded fibre lid at select restaurants in Canada during the fourth quarter of 2022.
As part of a Tims for Good pledge, Tim Hortons reported last year that it had changed over three billion units of packaging to make them reusable, recyclable, or compostable, and eliminated more than one billion single-use plastics in 2021. 
"We're excited to partner with Return-It on this pilot program as we work towards making all of our guest packaging reusable, recyclable or compostable. Tim Hortons has been testing a number of ways to scale reusable and returnable packaging systems, as well as increase the recyclability of single-use cups. Through this program with industry partners and the City of Vancouver, we hope to learn and develop innovative solutions for the future," said Paul Yang, Senior Director of Innovation and Sustainability at Tim Hortons.
The momentum in Canada is reflective of a global shift by coffee chains balancing a desire to reduce single-use waste with operational efficiency. Europe’s largest coffee chain, Costa Coffee, has been piloting its own reusable cup scheme in the UK since September 2021, whilst Starbucks will introduce its reusable Cup-Share programme at all of its 3,840 stores across 43 countries in Europe, the Middle East, and Africa by 2025.

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