Curb waste with biodegradable cups

Student petitions Tim Hortons to be more enviro-friendly

Tuesday, April 7th, 2009

Tim Horton, when he was a hockey player, wore a cup for protection. Petitioners now want Tim Hortons to protect the environment with biodegradable cups.

A student at Western has organized an online petition to protest the franchise, claiming the company’s use of paper cups is unnecessarily wasteful.

Tristan Parlette, a first-year management and organization studies student and member of EnviroWestern, began the petition two years ago. He hopes to get enough support to pressure Tim Hortons into using biodegradable cups. Presently just over 1,300 individuals have signed the petition.

“We have the technology to make these cups ... cups that are compostable,” Parlette said.

He quoted Western’s Physical Plant department, noting Western produces over 25,000 kg of paper a year from coffee cups, which are lined with petroleum products so beverages won’t soak through.

Noel Burgon, federal Green Party representative for London-Middlesex, loved the idea. “I would absolutely be all for it ... How much landfill space is taken up by cups that are used once?”

Brett McKenzie, provincial Green Party representative for London North Centre, applauded the effort as well, but had some questions of his own.

“This is vital, but there are so many other issues as far as Tim Hortons goes: where are they getting their coffee, and what is that doing to the places where the coffee is grown? How do they transport that coffee to Canada? What are they paying their workers?”

Tim Hortons has 14 outlets on campus, serving thousands of students and faculty members daily. The majority do not use travel mugs when buying drinks.

“We sell 1.1 million coffee cups a year,” Kevin McCabe, associate director and financial controller of Hospitality Services at Western, said.

Tim Hortons was unable to be reached for comment, but on its website Tim Hortons says, “We have anti-litter messages on all of our packaging items … sadly many people unfortunately do not pay attention to these messages.

“Tim Hortons is always researching alternative packaging materials, particularly those that are recyclable and/or biodegradable.”

“It’s not only Tim Hortons’ fault; all coffee places like Country Style and Starbucks " they all [have paper cups] but they do offer mugs,” Nikita D’Souza, a fourth-year health science student, said.

“At the same time I think they should start working on making cups bio-degradable,” she added.

Adam Kapini, a second-year chemical engineering student, wondered about the situation in general: “I don’t see why they don’t have [bio-degradable cups],” he commented.

Courtney Spence, a fourth-year religious studies student, put it aptly: “Has anyone said [they shouldn’t] yet?”

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