The city is considering pushing back a deadline it had already extended to June for Tim Hortons, the fast-food industry and its own officials to solve the caffeine headaches that have come with trying to recycle the one million takeout coffee cups used in Toronto every day.
A working group of city waste officials and industry representatives was briefed yesterday in a closed-door meeting on three consultants’ reports – which cost $50,000 – on the difficulties of including the cups in the blue box.
The reports, obtained by The Globe and Mail, and a provincial review of blue-box legislation may force the city to extend the deadline again, Geoff Rathbone, the city’s general manager of solid waste, said yesterday.
The city ended up in a fight with coffee shops last year after it threatened to ban the current standard takeout coffee cup, which it said it could not recycle.
The city said the cups’ plastic coating and plastic lids would contaminate its paper recycling stream, unless it spent at least $3-million on new equipment and $1-million in new operating costs for its sorting plants.
The city also said it would mandate a 20-cent discount for all coffee-shop customers who bring in reusable mugs, but agreed to new talks with the industry. A previous April deadline was pushed back to June.
The latest possible delay was welcomed by Stephanie Jones, the Ontario vice-president of the Canadian Restaurant and Foodservices Association and a member of the working group.
Ms. Jones, who points to smaller Ontario municipalities that recycle coffee cups, said she was encouraged by the consultants’ reports: “This is really the first time that we have clearly seen that taxes and bans are not the only two pieces under consideration.”
The Globe obtained PowerPoint slides summarizing the three consultants’ reports.
A paper-mill survey by Amec Americas Ltd. says the cups must first be completely separated from other recyclables and could be turned into tissue. But it includes a long list of potential problems, including contamination from the ink, the cups’ coating, and those common cardboard insulation sleeves.
No mill contacted was willing to take the material without a trial run. Many said they would need city money to convert their facilities.
To sort the material by hand, according to a report by Entec Consulting Ltd., the city would need up to 40 more people picking cups and lids off conveyor belts in its recycling sorting stations, which would have to be expanded.
Using automated “optical” or “near infrared” sorting machines also poses problems, as they cannot separate the cups from other paper and may not be able to capture the dark-brown plastic lids used on some cups.
A third report summarizes the results from focus groups conducted by Ipsos Reid, and says almost all the participants wrongly believed they could throw their coffee cups in the blue box now, while others were “confused.”
With a report from Jennifer
Fallout from takeout
1 million: Estimated takeout coffee cups generated in Toronto each day
152,858: Number that leave the city
336,883: Number brought in
1,184,025: Net daily that end up in Toronto’s waste
357,575,550: Annual total
4,291 tonnes a year: Weight of those cups
715 tonnes a year: Weight of their plastic lids
Source: Report for city by
Entec Consultng Ltd., obtained
by The Globe and Mail