Return-It Blog

Return-It Expands its Cup Recycling Program - Adding Starbucks as a New Partner

Return-It is excited to welcome Starbucks Canada as a new partner in the relaunch of its expanded cup recycling pilot program in the City of Vancouver this spring.

Originally launched in February 2020 with Metro Vancouver, Tim Hortons and A&W, this pilot program is British Columbia’s first initiative to recycle cups in commercial/public buildings and public spaces. The pilot intends to address the over 1.6 million coffee cups disposed of in the City of Vancouver annually at industrial, commercial and institutional (IC&I) locations and public spaces. Metro Vancouver, Tim Hortons and A&W will continue to support the pilot, which was paused shortly after its launch due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

While coffee and other plastic cups are collected and recycled through the province’s residential recycling program, more than half of hot and cold cups that are disposed of as garbage in Vancouver come from street locations, public spaces and public and commercial buildings. This pilot will help address this gap.

“We are delighted to be relaunching this much needed pilot this spring and have Starbucks join our existing partners in demonstrating their leadership in helping to identify a solution to reduce waste,” said Allen Langdon, President & CEO of Return-It. “This pilot and expanded partnership will help protect our natural environment and keep single-use cups out of landfills.”

Lids, sleeves and all types of disposable cups – hot or cold – will be collected in Return-It’s collection bins, which are made out of recycled plastic. All cups collected during the pilot program will be used to identify sustainable, local end markets for paper cups.

This pilot is a first step to making a quantifiable difference for recycled cups over the long term with the benefit of establishing a scalable template that can be rolled out in other jurisdictions.

“At Starbucks, we are committed to investing in better ways to manage our waste, both in our stores and in our communities,” said Ross Anderson, Head of Social Impact, Public Policy and Sustainability, Starbucks Canada. “Globally we have set a bold aspiration to become resource positive and reduce waste sent to landfills by 50 per cent by 2030 through scalable, innovative solutions. We helped launch the NextGen Cup Challenge, a global design competition to create a sustainable cup system, and in Canada over the last year, we have removed all plastic straws, and resumed accepting personal reusable cups with a 10-cent discount.”

Managed by Return-It, the pilot will evaluate recycling end markets for the items collected, test the marketability of different disposable cup materials (such as laminated cups), encourage public participation, and determine the viability of a broader, permanent program. Upon completion of the pilot, results and learnings will be gathered to develop next steps.

This cup recycling pilot also supports the City of Vancouver’s new single-use bylaw that came into effect on Jan. 1, 2022.

“We know we can achieve more in partnership with others, which is why we are excited to support the Return-It pilot program – a program our partners (employees) in Vancouver voted to support,” Anderson said. “We endorse the City of Vancouver’s goal to reduce single-use waste, and we will be using the proceeds from the single-use cups fees to support various sustainability initiatives at Starbucks that are important to our customers and partners (employees), including this pilot that can further help our industry find a recycling solution for disposable cups.”

Merlin Plastics, a recycling and processing company in New Westminster, B.C., will also be collaborating with the project to support recycling the plastic lids collected.

Questions about this blog post? Please contact us at or 1-855-350-2345 for more information.