City of Vancouver Should Consult Local Pioneers for Advice on Paper Cup Waste

There’s been a lot of talk about the amount of paper cup waste in Vancouver’s garbage bins lately-they are 22% of the garbage stream, and takeout materials all together (cups, containers and shopping bags) account for almost half of the litter found in Vancouver. Every week Vancouverites trash 2.5 million paper cups![1]

Earlier this year City Councillors voted unanimously to start public consultation on policy options like restricting paper cup use, fees on paper cups, discounts on reusable takeout containers, or requiring businesses to prompt their customers to bring in reusable items. City staff will come back from consultations this fall.[2]

Local Zero Hero Salt Spring Coffee is a well-known sustainability champion that has been working

hard to reduce the amount of paper cup waste that the company and its customers contribute to the waste burden for years. Since 2011 SSC has been tracking its waste, and in 2016 began reporting its sustainability metrics online. Owner Mickey McLeod attributes the company’s culture to the island mentality from which it sprang – “On Salt Spring Island, there is no ‘away’ to send your waste, so it creates a strong sense of stewardship. It makes us think about every material we use and what will happen at the end of its life.”

Frustrated with a growing throw-away culture, McLeod and his team began charging a green fee at

all their cafes. Rather than putting this money into general revenue, they grew a fund that they eventually put towards funding for LOCO’s Zero Hero pilot program. Zero Hero worked with Salt Spring Coffee and Recycling Alternative developed systems, signage and posters for all Salt Spring Coffee’s sites to help them meet their target waste reduction goals. Then it worked with several of the company’s foodservice customers (University Golf Course, Edible Canada, Uprising Breads, etc.) to provide audits, service recommendations and signage to help them improve their systems and reduce their waste.

Through its Green Fee, Salt Spring Coffee showed leadership in working to reduce paper cup waste. They also spread their own corporate practices and worked to helped their own customers become better environmental stewards. The funding to LOCO also helped our organization continue to develop our expertise in small business sustainability implementation, and in 2016 we worked with Tetra Tech and Metro Vancouver to help catalogue the best waste management, recycling and composting practices of small businesses in the region, and gather and develop tools to improve practices in other businesses.

Salt Spring Coffee started as a pioneer in sustainable business, and continues to push the envelope of sustainability practices.

In 2016 they won B Corporation’s “Best for World” award for the second time. Not only that, but they have put their time and resources towards influencing their customers to reduce their waste – both from their cafes, and their wholesale food service. We hope that as the City of Vancouver looks for solutions, they solicit the input of pioneering businesses like Salt Spring Coffee, who have a wealth of experience, and a zero waste ethic to draw on.

[1] St. Denis, Jen. Metro News Vancouver. 2017. 2.5 million coffee cups thrown away every week in Vancouver. Accessed 10-August-2017 from

[2] Li, Wanyee. 2017. Vancouver moves ahead with plan to reduce paper cups and takeout containers. Accessed 10-August-2017 from


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