British Columbia

Should paper coffee cups come with a recycling fee?

Recycling fees have been successful in reducing the number of bottle and cans heading to the landfill. Could a similar scheme work for paper coffee cups?

A group in Vancouver thinks it's time to start charging a fee on all those paper coffee cups

Would you be willing to pay and extra five or ten cents to help reduce paper cup pollution? (CBC)

A Vancouver group thinks it may have a solution to the problem of litter and waste caused by the 1.6 billion disposal coffee cups that get thrown out in Canada every year.

Anna Godefroy of the Binners Project, a group that picks up recyclables and returns them for cash, believes coffee drinkers should be charged a cup recycling fee every time they purchase a latte or double-double in a paper cup. The scheme would work exactly the same way as it does for cans and bottles.

 "We're thinking for coffee cups it could be five or ten cents," says Godefroy. "It would help reduce waste and also invites people to think twice before ordering a coffee to go."

Lindsay Coulter of the Suzuki Foundation agrees the plan could be a way to get people out of the paper cup habit.

"It's supposed to be reduce use, then reuse, then recycle," said Coulter, adding that just because you can put paper cups in your blue bin, doesn't mean they're not ending up in the landfill. 

In 2014 the Binners Project staged a one-day public event called "The Coffee Cup Revolution," offering a nickle for every disposable cup that was turned in. In a five-hour span, 45,000 cups were collected.

Paul Henderson, Metro Vancouver's manager for solid waste, says that paper cup usage around Vancouver needs to be reduced.       

"We'd like to see less cups used around the region," Henderson told CBC.

If Vancouver were to adopt the paper cup recycling fee scheme, it would be the first jurisdiction in the world to do so.


  • An earlier version of this story said 55,000 cups were collected in a five-hour span in 2014. In fact, 45,000 cups were collected.
    Oct 30, 2015 6:41 PM PT

With files from Deborah Goble


To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.

Become a CBC Member

Join the conversation  Create account

Already have an account?