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Is your morning cup of coffee worth polluting the environment?

Is your morning cup of coffee worth polluting the environment?

Globally, less than 10 per cent of the world’s plastics are recycled; the rest ends up in landfills, incinerators or as litter.

Why should you care? Plastic pollution damages the ecosystems that support our planet’s health. According to a World Economic Forum report, plastics will surpass fish in the ocean by 2050 according to a 2016 report. Plastics can cause physiological and behavioral changes in fish by contaminating our water with toxic chemicals. These chemicals can also reach the food chain, eventually affecting humans directly. Studies have shown that tiny plastic particles were found in embryos and blood of human beings. This is extremely concerning because it means plastics can move around inside our bodies, accumulate in our organs, effect babies’ developing immune systems and cause long-term damage.

Canada has made a commitment to eliminate plastic waste by 2030. However, we need to act now. We can make takeout more environmentally friendly, just like New York City. In 2020, New York cafés and restaurants implemented a 25 cent charge for disposable cups, encouraging people to bring reusable mugs. Their takeout materials can also be composted. Canada needs incentives like these.

Globally, 2.5 billion single-use coffee cup disposables are thrown away each year. Takeout chains often use plastic lids on cold cups. Hot cups are usually made of paper with an inner plastic liner. Cups with plastic linings can be difficult and costly to reprocess because the materials have to be separated. As a result, many municipalities don’t recycle these and they end up in the landfill resulting in unnecessary garbage.

Lids and cold drinks can be recycled, but they must be taken to the right place. This means that residents must properly sort their waste. Unfortunately, the City of Hamilton doesn’t have public recycling bins, so when people are out and about waste that could be recycled ends up in garbage bins.

The solution? The solution? We must also reduce our use of single-use cups. This doesn’t mean you need to give up your morning coffee run, but you should do it more sustainably.

This week, I tried something new. I got my morning coffee from Starbucks, McMaster University Tim Hortons, and McMaster University Tim Hortons. To avoid single-use plastic waste, I brought my own reusable cups. I was told, because of sanitary reasons and COVID-19, my cup couldn’t be used.

What shocked me is that Starbucks’ website states that as of Aug. 24, 2021, personal reusable cups were reintroduced in stores across Canada. So what’s going on? Either there’s a discrepancy between Starbucks’ policies and operations at individual locations’ or perhaps McMaster Facility Services has imposed a set of rules vendors need to comply with that differs from those at Starbucks’ HQ. Either way I urge students — and Hamiltonians more broadly — to fight for the reintroduction of reusable cups at cafés throughout Hamilton.

Tim Hortons introduced the reusable cup option back on April 6. It also has innovative plans in the works, like creating recyclable and compostable cups, using artificial intelligence to educate consumers on recycling and composting, as well as piloting TerraCycle’s zero-waste platform Loop.

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Loop was launched at five Burlington locations on November 1, 2021. Customers can opt for returnable containers to store their orders. A $3 deposit per item is required. The refund will be issued once the products have been returned. This is a great way of reducing single-use plastics. I urge folks to participate in this program — let’s make it a success!

Even if Canada follows through on its pledges to eliminate plastic waste, this issue will not go away. Plastic pollution is a global problem. Plastics travel long distances on wind and water. Though it is important to start at a community level, we can’t forget to advocate for global change.

Kaeley Cole, a fourth-year honours Biology student at McMaster University, is

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