Tim Hortons Puts Its New, Sustainable Hot Beverage Cup to the Test

The brand also will test AI-assisted recycling technology and a zero-waste program using returnable packaging.

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Select Tim Hortons restaurants across Canada will be equipped with a screen and product image recognition technology to identify packaging items that guests scan. The screen then provides guidance on whether the scanned items should be recycled, composted or go in the waste bin. Courtesy of Tim Hortons.

On the heels of four major brands announcing their commitments to work toward using sustainable cups yesterday, one more brand is throwing its hat in the ring.

Tim Hortons announced today—the kickoff day to Waste Reduction Week in Canada—that it’s launching a test of a new hot beverage cup design in January at select Vancouver restaurants. The test cups are made with up to 20% post-consumer recycled content and are compostable and recyclable. The design allows more of the cup’s fiber to be recovered in the repulping process.

“We’re proud to be taking this next step on our journey to develop cups that can be recycled anywhere in Canada or that are compostable,” says Paul Yang, senior director of sustainability and packaging for Tim Hortons, in a press release. “We will be working with government and industry stakeholders across Canada to share the results of the trial. We want to share our progress so we can work together toward developing the best solutions for everyone to use for a more sustainable future.”

The new cups build off designs that previously were tested, one that was made with post-consumer recycled material and another that featured a compostable or recyclable liner. This trial combines those features of being compostable or recyclable while also using recycled materials.

In addition, the brand announced two more sustainability initiatives. Tim Hortons is piloting artificial intelligence-assisted technology at 12 restaurants across Canada that aims to drive recycling and diversion rates while educating consumers on recycling and composting.

Waste bins at the participating restaurants will be equipped with a screen and product image recognition technology that identifies packaging items that guests scan and then provides guidance on whether the items can be recycled, go into the compost bin or should go in the waste bin.

Further, the brand also is piloting a zero-waste program using returnable packaging. At five test restaurants beginning Nov. 1, guests will have the option to pay a deposit—$3 per item—to receive reusable and returnable cups or food containers in an effort to reduce single-use waste. Guests then can return the packaging to bins at any of the five restaurants to get their deposits back.

“Through this test, we’ll start learning how guests respond to a reusables and returnable packaging system—what they like or don’t like—with the aim of refining a system that is seamless and enjoyable for more guests in more cities in the future,” says Yang.

Tim Hortons operates more than 4,700 restaurants in Canada, the U.S. and around the world. Of its units, more than 4,000 are located in Canada.

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