Tim Hortons Launches Closed Loop System

Tim Hortons in Stratford, Ontario (courtesy WikiCommons)
Tim Hortons in Stratford, Ontario (courtesy WikiCommons)

One of the best guilty pleasures around when visiting Canada is noshing at a Tim Hortons.  For me, Tim Hortons was the best way to break the ice when meeting new clients: a couple dozen of their doughnuts (or “timbits” for a lighter fare) and I was set.  Plus getting one of their “double double” coffees in my hand was the first step in successfully posing as a local.  The only problem was giving myself enough time to go to Tim Hortons in the morning–lines would often be out the door.

Part of Tim Hortons’ popularity is the company’s commitment to the communities in which they operate, a legacy of its namesake founder who died tragically at a young age.  In contrast to the troubles its  American cousin, Krispy Kreme, has faced, Tim Hortons for the most part has been able to thrive through smart growth.  Unlike Krispy Kreme, Tim Hortons has always been focused on selling doughnuts and coffee, not stock and accounting tricks.

Now Tim Hortons is ramping up its environmental initiatives.  A pilot program in the Maritimes will be a step towards a closed loop system to deal with some of the stores’ waste.

Last week in Nova Scotia, Tim Hortons announced that it would start to recycle hot beverage cups into take-out trays.  Those same trays will be churned over and over again into additional trays.  Should this “Cup to Tray” program succeed, Tim Hortons will be the first fast food (or in industry lexicon, “quick service) company in Canada to operate more of a a “closed loop” system.

For two years, Tim Hortons partnered with local company Scotia Recycling Group to collect cups at 156 Nova Scotia locations and transport them to CKF Inc., a paper products manufacturer.  At first CKF processed the cups into other paper products, but then Tim Hortons and CKF found a process that could turn the cups into take-out trays.  The key challenge for Tim Hortons will be to educate its customers to make sure those single-use beverage containers are indeed disposed properly in order for 100 percent of those cups to become a steady source of material.  Clearly, marked garbage bins are just the beginning.  The other side of the equation is whether those take out trays will be recycled as well.

Meanwhile, Tim Hortons is continuing its 10 cent discount for consumers who bring their own mugs.  Persuading and reminding customers to bring those cups is the best closed loop system a company can have.  Such a direction is important because the effects of fast food waste are everywhere, from diminishing landfill space to water pollution.

Nevertheless Tim Hortons’ pilot waste diversion program in Nova Scotia is the right move forward.  The company has already demonstrated its commitment to sustainability by running a similar program in St. John’s, Newfoundland and Labrador.  Another program in Prince Edward Island composts waste paper collected at its restaurants.  Long term plans include rolling out the program through the rest of eastern Canada.

Leon Kaye is a consultant, writer, and editor of GreenGoPost.com and also contributes to The Guardian Sustainable Business; you can follow him on Twitter.  He lives in Silicon Valley.

Based in Fresno, California, Leon Kaye has written for TriplePundit since 2010. He has lived across the U.S., as well as in South Korea, Abu Dhabi and Uruguay. Some of Leon's work can also be found in The Guardian, Sustainable Brands and CleanTechnica. You can follow him on Twitter (@LeonKaye) and Instagram (GreenGoPost).

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