Cup Recycling Pilot Program

Return-It is excited to relaunch and expand its cup recycling pilot program in the City of Vancouver - Spring 2022

Every year, millions of coffee cups are disposed of in the City of Vancouver at industrial, commercial and institutional (IC&I) locations and public spaces. To help address this challenge, Return-It and Metro Vancouver are working alongside Tim Hortons, A&W Canada and Starbucks to pilot British Columbia’s first initiative to recycle coffee cups in commercial and public buildings, and expand the service to public outdoor plazas.

Return-It wants to find a recycling solution for your coffee cups and drink cups – and you can help

Return-It has developed a partnership to implement a pilot program to collect and recycle disposable cups, lids and sleeves. During the pilot program, collection bins will be installed at selected Downtown Vancouver office buildings. The cups collected during the pilot program will be used to identify collection and recycling alternatives for disposable cups.

When you finish your coffee, look for a collection bin to contribute your paper cup to our pilot program in the following locations:

701 West Georgia Street
777 Hornby Street
300 West Georgia - The Library Square (2 bins)
401 Burrard Street
The Coffee Cup Recycling Pilot is currently delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Collection bins remain in place to collect and recycle this material, and we will expand the pilot and relaunch in spring 2022.

Frequently Asked Questions

What items are accepted in the bins?

The pilot accepts lids, sleeves and all types of disposable coffee cups, including multi-laminate, plastic-lined paper cups, plastic coffee cups, etc.

Why do coffee cups need a separate recycling stream?

Hot beverage cups can be challenging to recycle because they come in a number of different material streams and have a polyethylene coating on the inside to keep liquids from soaking through the paper. These attributes require special processes for separating the paper fibres so they can be used to make new products. Also, lids, sleeves are recyclable and there are markets for these materials when sorted separately but there are other potential contaminants like stir sticks, tea bags and napkins which are generally disposed of with the cup and need to be removed before the cups can be recycled.

What are you trying to learn from this pilot?

We are looking to learn and identify a recycling solution for coffee cups consumed in the commercial and public sectors. The pilot will look at collection, public education and participation levels, learnings, finding recycling end markets for disposable coffee cup collection, and testing the marketability of the different material streams.

How can you guarantee the coffee cups collected will actually be recycled?

Coffee cups collected in this pilot will be recycled. The aim of this pilot is to work with other recycling partners outside of BC to test viable recycling solutions at a scalable level for our national partners.

What products can coffee cups be recycled into?

Most residential programs in North America that collect coffee cups market these items to be used in the production of tissues or toilet paper. The pilot will identify higher use recycling options for a clean stream of materials that is not blended with other packaging.

Will this initiative really make a difference?

With millions of coffee cups being disposed of in the City of Vancouver alone, there is a clear need to act now. This pilot is a first step to making a quantifiable difference over the long term.