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Coffee contest a bitter taste for environmentalist

March 2, 2010

It doesn’t matter what’s under the rim, the environment loses when coffee drinkers are encouraged to Roll Up The Rim, the Toronto Environmental Alliance charged Monday.

The jolt is aimed at Tim Hortons, which is no stranger to controversy for its disposable cups despite the coffee giant’s effort to promote its commitment to recycling.

“Torontonians don’t win by rolling up the rim,” Dr. Franz Hartmann, executive director of the Toronto Environmental Alliance, told QMI Agency. “We’d like to see a lot (fewer) coffee cups being used here in Toronto.

“A lot of resources go into making a coffee cup and too often they end up going into garbage. In fact, they can’t be recycled in the city of Toronto ... it’s a pretty significant waste of resources.”

Hartmann said the coffee giant should find a better way to engage people that doesn’t end in a landfill.

“It’s a contest that requires people to consume a product that frankly creates a lot of garbage and uses a lot of precious natural resources,” Hartmann said. “You’ve got to question why they are doing it. If they say on one hand, ‘we care about the environment,’ and on the other hand are promoting this sort of contest, it just doesn’t add up.”

Tim Hortons spokesman David Morelli said the chain has tried but hasn’t found a better model for the 24-year-old contest.

“We have to consider maintaining the odds of winning overall, preserving the integrity of the program — there is a host of issues involved,” Morelli said, adding that they have even looked at handing out a scratch card with the coffee.

“We haven’t found a solution that’s different from the cups just yet but it is something we’re looking at.”

The company does offer an online game but the prizes are different for the paperless version.

Morelli said the popular contest isn’t about encouraging waste but about “saying thanks to the customers for their business,” by giving people a one-in-nine chance to win something.

Most of the prizes are free Tim Hortons products, but this year the chain is also giving away 40 Toyota 2010 RAV4s and 100 cash prizes of $10,000.

Tim Hortons stressed that the cups are recyclable — if you can find a place that recycles them.

About 130 locations in Toronto and 400 locations across Canada collect the cups for recycling.

Tim Hortons paper coffee cups are recyclable in other municipalities, including Owen Sound and Windsor, as are the plastic lids, but the two items together can’t be sorted by Toronto’s current recycling depot.

Tim Hortons is no stranger to controversy over its cups, especially in Hogtown.

In 2008, the city eventually did a double-double take and spared the Tim Hortons coffee cup and lid from a citywide ban.

They also decided not to ban single-use coffee cups, instead referring the ban back to staff to consult further with the coffee companies, including Starbucks and Tim Hortons.

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As published here: http://www.torontosun.com/news/canada/2010/03/01/13075401.html

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