Return-It Blog

Return-It Launches Recycling Pilot for Single-Use & Reusable Cups in Vancouver

A new pilot project by Return-It, in partnership with major brands, aims to keep more cups out of landfills by giving consumers a convenient place to recycle them in commercial and on-street locations. In addition to single-use cups for hot and cold beverages, the program also introduces a reusable cup program, with consumers signing up to use reusable cups that will be washed and returned to retail locations.

As of today, Return-It is rolling out the first of its bins for reusable and single-use cups in public spaces and partner locations across the City of Vancouver (see locations). The program – called Return-It to Reuse It and Recycle It – is made possible through a partnership between Return-It, Tim Hortons, Starbucks, A&W Canada, McDonald’s Canada, City of Vancouver, Metro Vancouver and Merlin Plastics.

Managed by Return-It, the 6-month pilot program seeks to evaluate and determine the viability of a broader, permanent program in the City of Vancouver and other locations. Return-It will collect and process single-use cups and test additional recycling opportunities for the component materials. For reusable cups, Return-It will wash, sanitize and return the cups to each participating brand for redistribution to customers. Once the pilot wraps up, results will be analyzed to evaluate a scalable solution for a cups program that is convenient for customers.

“We are excited to be working alongside our partners to make a quantifiable difference in keeping single-use cups out of landfills and to provide consumers with a more convenient option for reusing cups,” said John Nixon, President & CEO, Return-It. “We’re always looking for innovative solutions that will improve recovery rates and benefit British Columbians and this program will hopefully act as a scalable template that can be rolled out in other communities.”

“The City of Vancouver is committed to reducing waste and litter from single-use items and we commend Return-It and the participating partners for this initiative. It is important and timely as it helps support the City’s new single-use cup by-law and our Zero Waste 2040 goals,” said Albert Shamess at the City of Vancouver. “We hope this initiative will encourage residents and visitors to keep their cups out of the garbage and provide an incentive to choose a reusable cup rather than a single-use cup.”

The collection bins, which are made from recycled plastics, provide an accessible opportunity to quickly redistribute reusables and recycle single-use cups. For single-use cups, consumers will empty out any liquids in one slot, and place the cups and lids in separate slots.

For reusable cups, consumers will scan a QR code on the cup then place it in a slot marked for reusables. Each participating brand will offer consumers a method for signing up for their reusable cup program. Cups that are washed and repacked by Return-It will be returned to each brand and put back into circulation.

“We’re excited to partner with Return-It on this pilot program as we work towards making all of our guest packaging reusable, recyclable or compostable,” said Paul Yang, Senior Director of Innovation & Sustainability at Tim Hortons. “Tim Hortons has been testing a number of ways to scale reusable and returnable packaging systems as well as increase the recyclability of paper cups. Through this program with industry partners and the City of Vancouver, we hope to learn and develop innovative solutions for the future.”

“Our goal is to become resource-positive for the future and cut our waste footprint by half by 2030,” said Ross Anderson, Head of Social Impact, Public Policy and Sustainability at Starbucks Canada. . “Supporting this pilot, together with our own efforts in-store to recycle single-use cups and encourage the use of resusabiles with our customers, is part of our unwavering commitment to ensure a sustainable future for all  and invest in innovative and scalable solutions  to reduce and manage waste.”

“We’re on a journey to reach zero waste at our restaurants and this pilot is an exciting step to get us closer to that goal,” said Susan Senecal, President & CEO at A&W Canada. “We love the combination of finding a better way to recycle single-use cups, while also introducing a reusables program for the city of Vancouver.”

“We are proud to partner with Return-It and support this important pilot,”, said Gemma Pryor, Senior Director Canada Impact Team at McDonald’s Canada. “As part of our ongoing commitment to minimize our environmental footprint and to help protect the planet for future generations, McDonald’s Canada has already transitioned away from plastic cutlery, straws and stir sticks and we look forward to trialing reusable cups in restaurants soon.”

“We are very excited to be involved in this pilot program for reusable cups,” said Ashley Gorrie, Founder of Unwasted, a Canadian company that turns single-use plastics into furniture and other products such as the bins being used in the Vancouver pilot. “We started Unwasted because we wanted to help educate consumers about proper diversion of waste and recycling but also to begin to use the materials collected in the production of our products, making these solutions as circular as possible. We are thankful to Return-It for partnering with us on this program and look forward to its necessary success.”

More information on the program and locations of public collection bins can be found on our Coffee Cup Pilot page.

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