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Tim Hortons’ Cup-To-Tray Recycling Closes the Loop

Canadian fast food chain Tim Hortons has developed a way to close the loop on its hot beverage cup waste by recycling it into take-out trays.

Currently the Cup-to-Tray program is only in Nova Scotia, where the restaurant partnered with Scotia Recycling Limited to collect cups at all 156 traditional Tim Hortons restaurants in the province and deliver them to paper product manufacturer CKF Inc.

Initially cups were blended with other waste papers and made into a variety of paper products, helping divert Tim Hortons cups from municipal landfills across the province. But CKF has developed a new process that converts the cups into take-out trays and other products, effectively closing the loop on the company's hot beverage cup recycling process. The trays also can be recycled into new trays.

The Cup-to-Tray program has the capacity to recycle 100 percent of Tim Hortons' annual Nova Scotia cup inventory and is just one aspect of the company's Making a True Difference corporate social responsibility vision. 

In order to achieve high recycling rates, Tim Hortons is now appealing to its guests by asking them to recycle paper cups in Tim Hortons restaurants.

"Having this process of turning used cups into recyclable trays and diverting those cups from landfills is a great success and one we are proud of," says Greg Smith, Senior Manager, Regional Marketing - Atlantic Canada, Tim Hortons. "But the only way for this program to work is for the cups to be brought back to our restaurants and properly recycled. We encourage our guests to join us in keeping Nova Scotia clean by bringing their reusable mugs to Tim Hortons for a 10-cent discount on coffee and by separating all their waste - cups, lids, trays, organics - at our new in-restaurant and drive-through recycling units."

The Cup-to-Tray program is operating in St. John's, Newfoundland and Labrador, with the intention of rolling it out across the rest of the province and New Brunswick in the coming year. All Prince Edward Island restaurants already divert their restaurant-collected paper packaging from landfills through composting.

In other parts of Canada, cups and other paper packaging are collected at Tim Hortons restaurants and diverted from landfills where possible. In total, there are more than 650 Tim Hortons restaurants in Canada offering cup-recycling or composting programs.

Tim Horton’s competitor Starbucks Coffee also working on cup recycling. Earlier this year the company won a Green Package Award for its cup-to-cup recycling pilot program, developed with International Paper, Georgia-Pacific, and Mississippi River Pulp.

Bart King is a PR consultant and principal at Cleantech Communications.


Containers are part of the program

Another aspect of the Tim Hortons "cup to tray" program, is the recycling containers deployed in the restaurants. Developed by CleanRiver, these containers use specialized graphics and dedicated openings to guide the consumer and keep the waste stream clean.

Bart King is the principal of New Growth Communications, a network of affiliated content producers and strategists serving clients in the emerging green economy. He is also Associate Editor of Sponsored Content for Sustainable Brands. Follow him @bart_king [Read more about Bart King]

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