Recycling Product News Logo

City of Vancouver and Return-It expand reusable cup program

A Return-It drop-off bin for reuseable cups
A Return-It drop-off bin for reuseable cups Return-It

Return-It and the City of Vancouver have expanded the Return-It to Reuse-It and Recycle-It cup program in Vancouver.

Launched as a pilot in 2022, the program introduced a reusable Tim Hortons cup that consumers sign up to use and return to one of the drop-off bins. Once the reusable cups are returned, they are washed and redistributed to retail locations for reuse. In addition to the reusable cup program, the pilot also sought to keep single-use cups out of landfills by giving consumers a convenient place to recycle them in commercial and on-street locations. 

"At Return-It, our social purpose is to foster a world where nothing is waste. The Return-It to Reuse-It and Recycle-It cup program is the perfect example of our social purpose come to life," said Cindy Coutts, president and CEO of Return-It. "We're proud to work with our brand partners on a program that promotes reuse, recycling and a zero-waste future."

With the pilot program successfully working as a collection point for reusable cups and diverting single-use cups from the trash, all participants from the pilot (with the exception of McDonald's Canada) knew it made sense to not only continue the program but expand it. The expansion of the program in Vancouver will see an additional 8 collection bins, bringing the total number of bins to 27. The bins are all placed within high pedestrian traffic areas, transit hubs, and near other waste diversion stations, making it easy for consumers to return their reusable Tim Hortons cups or recycle their single-use cups.

"We're proud to partner with Return-It in continuing to work toward building solutions that reduce our use of single-use cups and make reusable alternatives more convenient and accessible for all Canadians," said Paul Yang, senior director of procurement, sustainability, and packaging at Tim Hortons. "This expansion will help us deliver more impact in Vancouver and continue to inform the development of our national strategies."

"Our goal is to become resource-positive for the future and cut our waste footprint by half by 2030," said Ross Anderson, head of social impact, public policy, and sustainability at Starbucks Canada. "We work alongside our communities to help protect the planet and our support for this program, plus our unwavering commitment to make it easier for customers to use their reusable cups at Starbucks, are some of the several initiatives underway to create new and scalable solutions that will reduce single-use cup waste and have a positive impact on our future."

After initially launching the program as a pilot, Return-It has continually looked for opportunities to learn and make improvements within the program. The first thing Return-It did was to change from using traditional delivery trucks to an e-bike courier service, SHIFT, which offered a more environmentally friendly option to help further reduce greenhouse gas emissions while servicing the bins. Another change to the program came from the knowledge gained from consumers using the bins themselves. The bins have been redesigned to be more user-friendly when dropping off reusable cups and when recycling single-use cups. Many other learnings from the pilot program have been implemented and new learnings will be applied to continually improve the program.

"We are very pleased to continue our collaboration with Return-It – and its partners – in supporting reuse and recycling options for single-use cups in Vancouver," says Jonathan McDermott, City of Vancouver's director of solid waste management. "The expansion of the pilot program to 27 locations is an extremely positive sign that Vancouver residents, and participating retailers, are embracing low waste alternatives in an effort to reduce litter and keep single-use cups out of the landfill."

For reusable cups, once consumers scan a QR code at the bin and return the cup, they are picked up by local transporter SHIFT using electric tricycles and brought to a wash plant, repacked, and redistributed to Tim Hortons cafés and put back into circulation. The single-use cups and lids are transported to local processors and recycled with other paper materials and plastics.

Company info

100 - 4259 Canada Way
Burnaby, BC
CA, V5G 4Y2


Read more

453 W 12th Ave
Vancouver, BC
CA, V5Y 1V4.


Read more

Related Articles