Tim Hortons gets a reprieve on new waste rules
Coffee chain and fast-food outlets reach a compromise with the city, but grocery retailers and bottled-water makers are not included
JENNIFER LEWINGTON AND JEFF GRAY
November 13, 2008
Tim Hortons and other fast-food outlets yesterday won a five-month reprieve – but grocery retailers and bottled-water makers did not – from tough city proposals to reduce consumer packaging waste.
In a compromise struck during a 10-hour debate, the public works committee unanimously agreed to more talks with Tim Hortons and its competitors – but only until April, 2009 – to find a recycling solution for disposable coffee and hot-drink cups that now go to landfill.
“This allows industry and leaders like Tim Hortons to sit down with the city on how we are actually going to reduce the volume of garbage going into our garbage dumps,” said committee chairman Glenn De Baeremaeker (Ward 38 Scarborough Centre.) “How do we get 365 million coffee cups out of the garbage stream and into the recycling stream?”
But by a vote of 4-2, the committee rebuffed moves to delay other proposals in a report by the city’s solid-waste department, including a 10-cent discount for consumers who avoid using a plastic bag at the checkout counter. The committee also held to a proposed ban on bottled water at civic centres, effective immediately, and at city facilities in three years.
After the vote, which heads to council for debate in early December, a spokeswoman for grocery retailers expressed dismay they had won no relief.
“I hope saner minds will prevail,” said Kim McKinnon, Ontario vice-president of the Canadian Council of Grocery Distributors. “What they’ve done here is cause a huge economic burden on the grocery retailers … consumers will feel the multimillion-dollar impact.”
Nick Javor, senior vice-president of corporate affairs for Tim Hortons, expressed relief at the committee vote, but did not commit to specific actions.
“We have to go back and do more work,” he said.
The original staff report – which at the insistence of Mayor David Miller avoided calls for new taxes – won praise from environmentalists and universal opposition from industry. The report called on the fast-food industry to develop reusable take-out containers by 2010, and also switch to all-recyclable disposable take-out containers by the end of next year. (The city will start accepting polystyrene foam and plastic bags in blue bins in December.)
The plastics and food-industry groups repeated warnings yesterday that the city plan would cost hundreds of millions of dollars to business, and ultimately to consumers. City officials maintain the financial impact would be small. Industry groups also warned of possible legal action.
Stephanie Jones, the Ontario vice-president of the Canadian Restaurant and Foodservices Association, said the 20-cent discount for customers who bring their own mugs was “punitive” and would leave the coffee shops – especially small mom-and-pop operations – out-of-pocket.
“Where is the city’s research? I personally went to Costco, and if I buy a sleeve of 12-ounce paper cups and a package of lids, I pay just over 10 cents [per cup],” she said.
According to a report by city bureaucrats, hot-drink cups with a sleeve and a plastic lid range in cost from 13 cents to 27 cents. Tim Hortons already offers a bring-your-own-mug discount, but only 10 cents.
The city says Tim Hortons’ current coffees cups are unrecyclable because the plastic lids contaminate the paper recycling stream. The coffee giant refused yesterday to help pay for the estimated $3-million in new sorting equipment needed to process the cups.
Mr. Javor said Tim Hortons would support the city if it approached the province to seek funding for the new equipment. Yesterday’s compromise includes a recommendation that the city ask the province for the financial help.
As of yesterday, Mr. Javor’s name now appears in the city’s lobbyist registry. The Globe and Mail reported on Tuesday that, despite meeting with city councillors last week, Mr. Javor did not appear in the city’s on-line lobbyist registry that tracks contact with city officials.
Lobbyist registrar Linda Gehrke would not comment if she is still investigating any possible breach of the rules by Mr. Javor. A conviction for a first offence could mean a fine of up to $25,000, but Ms. Gehrke says she is taking a lenient approach as industry adjusts to the rules.
Saving the planet
Some recent moves by other jurisdictions:
Seattle: A 20-cent-a-bag “green fee” on plastic and paper bags, set for Jan. 1, is on hold pending the outcome of a referendum later next year.
San Francisco: It was the first city in the U.S. to impose a ban on plastic shopping bags, followed by Oakland, Calif., and Portland, Ore.
Ireland: A tax on plastic grocery bags, the equivalent of 34 cents a bag, was imposed in 2002, prompting a 90-per-cent drop in use.
Vancouver: A ban is under consideration, after Metro Vancouver (22 area municipalities) decided to work to discourage use of disposable bags.
Seattle: A mayor’s executive order banned city departments from buying bottled water, effective this month.
Metro Vancouver: It launched a campaign in September to encourage tap water use over bottled water, with a goal to reduce consumption 20 per cent by 2010.
Charlottetown: It was the first city in the country to ban bottled water from municipal facilities, in 2007. In August, London, Ont., imposed a similar ban. Vancouver and Kitchener-Waterloo are considering bans.
FOOD AND BEVERAGES
Seattle: A ban on polystyrene foam takeout containers comes into effect Jan. 1.
San Francisco: Disposable takeout containers must be biodegradable or suitable for compost or recycling.
Turner Valley, Alta.: In April, became the first municipality in Canada to ban polystyrene in food packaging, such as foam cups.
Jennifer Lewington and