Coffee cups now recyclable across campus

By Morgan Elias and Katie Holman
September 04, 2014

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Western loves its coffee. And we have the numbers to prove it.

Every day, the university community throws an average of 12,000 coffee cups into garbage bins across campus. Those once-unrecyclable cups, which provided so much joy when full, created a mess for campus – and the planet – once empty by adding up to more than 100 tonnes of waste annually.

But thanks to Western’s Facilities Management, in partnership with the City of London and Waste Management, all that changes this semester. Coffee cups and lids (as well as fountain drink cups) from all locations on campus, including Tim Horton’s and Starbucks, can be recycled in the containers bin along with plastics, glass and aluminum.

Though the cups are made of paper, the unique recycling process requires cups be sent to the recycling centre with container-type products. A general rule when trying to determine where recyclables go: ‘If it can hold a liquid, it likely belongs with the containers.’ 

In addition to adding coffee cups to the recycling plan, Western also now accepts plastics that are labeled 1-7 to be recycled as opposed to previous collection procedures that only allowed for plastics 1, 2, 4 and 5. Western is also in the process of expanding its organics collection on campus and in residences. 

“These changes to our waste collection system are just another step along our path to becoming one of Canada’s most sustainable universities,” said Stefanie De Adder, Western sustainability coordinator. “With such a large campus community, it is important that we do whatever we can to reduce our negative impacts on the environment. Dedicating greater efforts toward waste management is one of those efforts.”

In 2013, Western’s President’s Advisory Committee on Environment and Sustainability (PACES) released Creating a Sustainable Western Experience, a document that outlined 11 sustainability-related goals. Among those, Western committed to minimizing the institution’s ecological footprint and improving the campus’ ecosystem services. To this end, Western will strive to make the university a Zero Waste Campus by 2022.

That goal requires 90 per cent or more of the waste generated on campus to be diverted from landfill through recycling, reusing or composting. Coffee cups make up approximately 6 per cent of total campus waste by weight.

While this big change is great news for Western, De Adder reminded the campus community that a reusable mug is still the best option when getting your daily coffee fix.


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