In the Blog

Our dirty little mugs

November 17th, 2008     by Elle E.     Comments

Debate is brewing about whether or not coffee cups, plastic bags and water bottles should be banned. The coffee cup purveyors don’t think you could handle it.

“…the possibility of a ban or restrictions raises questions about whether consumers can break their reliance on non-recyclable coffee cups and disposable takeout containers.” - from the Globe and Mail

Dirty Little Spoons à la Toronto’s Guerrilla Gourmet

The optimistic viewpoint would say that yes, humans of all stripes, even the spoiled ones, can waste less and survive. In fact — and try to stay with me — if we continue to waste as much as we do, we might not survive.

What’s your take? Do you always BYOmug? Are you motivated by discounts, like getting a Grande for the price of a Tall? (Or a Liatorp for the price of a Flarke?)

A City of Toronto report recommends a 10-cent refund if you BYObag and 20-cent refund if you BYOmug.

This would reward consumers who reduce waste, and might eventually lead to normalizing things like reusable mugs, which is really the point. Some restaurants don’t like the idea much, and you can hear that loud and clear in this clip from the CBC’s Metro Morning, where Toronto city councillor, Glen de Baeremaeker talks to Stephanie Jones, vice-president of the Canadian Restaurant and Foodservices Association.

Consumer demand is one facet of this problem. Lack of extended producer responsibility is another. Producer responsibility is kind of like the “if you made the mess, you clean it up” philosophy you had to follow in kindergarden. In an extreme form it would mean that, for example, cell phone companies would have to recycle or dispose everything they sold to you - from the impermeable plastic packaging to the dead battery to the cute little buttons. If Big Telecom had to accept every model the moment it ran out of style, I wonder if built-in obsolescence would slow down a tick. Producer responsibility could also mean that your local cafe would have to compost or recycle all packaging it sold to you.

BYO fancy tea cup and really mess up the line behind you.

Right now, most companies externalize waste, meaning once the product hits the hands of the consumer, it becomes our problem. Which means our cities’ problem, and policies and programs vary across the country. That’s why recycling and composting is inconsistent. It’s also why Calgary won’t even get curbside blue box pick-up until spring 2009.

Meanwhile, you, the consumer, are stuck in the middle of these debates. Companies are defending your freedom to choose paper or plastic. Unfortunately, you are not free to live in a world where sustainability trumps convenience or cash flow. But you are free to dream about it.

You’re also free to tell Stephanie Jones, or your local Restaurant and Foodservice officer, what you think. I did.

Tags: eco speak, in my opinion...

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