Toronto Proposes Ban on Coffee Cups


Photograph from smoodysarah on Flickr

When I go out, I'm always annoyed by the double-bagging phenomenon (whether paper or plastic) and the takeout burger covered in tissue, in a foam container, in a plastic bag.

Looks like I'm not the only one. The Toronto Star reports on the city's attempt to reduce the amount of garbage from landfills—a major environmental issue—by considering limitations on paper coffee cups, foam takeout containers, and plastic packaging.

While bans on plastic packaging have been effective in the U.S., an outright ban on paper coffee cups doesn't make much sense. Not enough people are willing to bring their own containers, and many stores are too cheap to adopt compostable materials or don't do enough to promote recycling. One of the more reasonable solutions is a fee on plastic bags—Seattle will adopt this policy in January 2009.

But what about Toronto applying a tax for takeout containers and coffee cups? Not only is this idea impractical, it doesn't do too much to solve the problem. If I want my daily 16 ounces of joe, I can either pay for the luxury of that classic paper cup, lug around my insulated container, or stay in a cafe for an extra fifteen minutes while sipping out of a ceramic mug. Here's a little bit of Coffee Shop 101: The price of the disposable container you currently get your coffee in is built into the price. Which is why you might get a discount if you bring in a mug. Unfortunately when you get lunch from the corner deli, there's no reusable container discount that I'm aware of.

Storeowners need to be more responsible by adopting compostable materials (with the help of manufacturers) or developing user-friendly recycling systems—Toronto could even penalize businesses (instead of their patrons) for continuing to add to the landfill problem. However, Toronto isn't the only city that suffers from these ridiculous garbage issues, and it's impossible to develop a plan that will be adopted by all, keep everyone happy, and end our environmental problems. Only in utopia will everyone adopt reusable mugs—and I bet you and I will forget ours every once in a while.