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Sip smart for Earth Day

“Let’s go to Timmies,” has become a frequent phrase used in everyday conversations across Canada. Unfortunately, this coffee addiction can lead to some negative effects on our environment, an important conversation especially on Earth Day.

Tim Hortons paper cups can be seen in the hands of friends, left on lunchroom tables and discarded on the grounds of downtown Oshawa. Richard Willis works at the Michael Starr building on King Street West across from a popular Tim Hortons location. He notices a lot of Tim Hortons litter during the spring after the snow has melted. “I think people are just lazy,” he said about the problem of litter. “They can’t be bothered to clean up.”

The beloved coffee house does do its part in the fight against littering. The Tim Hortons website talks about their awareness of the negative environmental impact its litter causes in their frequently asked questions section. They offer china mugs for in-store beverages and a ten-cent discount for a travel mug refill. “Please Do Not Litter,” is written on the Tim Hortons paper cups as a reminder.

However, it’s the packaging itself that causes the most issues.

The City of Toronto threatened to outlaw paper coffee cups with plastic lids in 2008. An agreement to keep the cups was made, with Tim Hortons showing more involvement in the cleaning effort. They even offer in-store recycling in some Ontario stores, most in popular Toronto locations.

However, Oshawa stores do not offer in-store recycling and will not accept the cups into their blue bin recycling. Even the Region of Durham’s 2010/2011 waste collection calendar lists paper cups, underlined for emphasis, in the do not recycle section.

Carol Slaughter with The Regional Municipality of Durham explained that though the cups are paper, they are lined with a non-recyclable coating. And because Durham Region sells its paper product recyclables a Guelph-based company that will not accept the coffee cups, they end up in landfills instead. In addition, the recycling symbol on Tim Hortons’ lids shows it is a class 6 recyclable. This means the lid is in the polystyrene class, a product many companies will not purchase for recycling purposes.

More improvements need to be made before this problem is solved. April 22 is Earth Day across Canada, landing on the heels of Pitch-In Week Oshawa, a call-out campaign to have local citizens help spring clean their environment. On Earth Day, support a healthier environment – whether that means eating a meat-free dinner, taking public transit or sipping from a reusable mug.

Story and image by Hillary DiMenna

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