As Tim Hortons tests plastic-free lids, how eco-friendly are alternatives?

Click to play video: 'Tim Hortons plastic-free lids: How eco-friendly are the alternatives?'
Tim Hortons plastic-free lids: How eco-friendly are the alternatives?
Tim Hortons plastic-free lids: How eco-friendly are the alternatives? – Apr 15, 2024

Tim Hortons‘ lovers visiting some stores in Ottawa and Gatineau, Que., may see a different kind of covering on their cups of coffee, tea or other hot drinks as the company tests out new plastic-free fibre lids for the next six weeks.

They’re the latest company to test out alternative lids or cups amid a growing shift away from single-use plastics, and as consumer habits shift.

The company told Global News the lids are being used at 19 stores in Ottawa and one in Gatineau.

According to Paul Yang, the company’s senior director of sustainability, procurement and packaging, the trial is part of finding a guest-friendly alternative to plastic lids.

We’ve been transitioning all of our packaging towards reusable, recyclable and compostable options,” Yang told Global News.

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He added the trial is part of Tim Hortons’ five-year journey to improve packaging — the company has already changed its cutlery to wooden and fibre cutlery, and replaced plastic lids on their “loaded bowls.”

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In 2020, the company ended its practice of double-cupping hot drinks, saying it would eliminate millions of cups from landfills. At the time, The Canadian Press reported that most recycling facilities in Canada didn’t recycle single-use paper coffee cups because of a plastic lining inside.

Last year, the chain announced it was rolling out recyclable fibre hot drink lids, and breakfast and lunch wrappers. The lids on offer in the Ottawa-area pilot are an improved version of the 2023 trial, as well as a similar test in Prince Edward Island earlier this year.

“We’ve made a number of tweaks in the manufacturing process to allow us to get better functionality out of that lid and address some of the concerns that guests had on maybe absorption of liquid into the lid and so on,” said Yang.

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Tim Hortons testing plastic-free and recyclable hot beverage lids in select Tims restaurants in Ottawa for up to 6 weeks. CNW Group/Tim Hortons

Some sustainability experts still  have questions.

Wren Montgomery, an associate professor of management and sustainability at Western University’s Ivey Business School, told Global News that companies using fewer plastics is always a better choice.

However, she would like companies to be as transparent as possible on how the alternative products are made, how they would be disposed of and any potential environmental impacts from the new products.

“Whenever I’m not seeing a company being really transparent about those sort of things, I start to wonder,” she said.

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According to Yang, the lids in P.E.I. could be recycled or composted and the company is working towards having the lids accepted into compost programs in as “many systems” as possible.

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He added he could not comment on the manufacturing processes but stressed the lids are plastic-free and made with plant-based materials.

Montgomery, however, noted what companies and Canadians need to focus on is reducing consumption as too many things are thrown out daily.

“So whether that’s disposable coffee cups or yoga pants or fast fashion or whatever it is, we’ve got this huge consumption and waste problem,” she said.

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