Sure it is destroying the planet, but I could win a muffin

Wednesday, March 14, 2012


It is that time of the year again, when millions of Canadians hold their breath, squeeze all their hopes into the pit of their stomachs, and roll up the rim to see if they win. The problem is that the only thing we are actually winning is a crappier planet.

Roll up the Rim to Win has been the bane of my existence for the past decade. The University of Ottawa, like every other University, has a disposable cup problem: there are too many of them to put a fine point to it.

Many, if not the majority of disposable coffee cups, are tossed directly into the garbage on campus. There is a general misconception that coffee cups are covered with so much wax that they can’t be recycled (I can’t blame anyone, what is that stuff on the inside of the cup that is super shinny and stops water from leaking out of it?). Otherwise, people understand that you can recycle them and they do just that... except that they do it while the cup is still half full of coffee. That means that the coffee soaks the rest of the paper in the bin and contaminates everything.

So when I say that I cringe at the slowly rolled “r”s of Rrrroll up the Rrrrim, believe me there is good cause. You see, all the efforts we put into getting people to use reusable mugs during the year goes completely out the window during roll up the rim. It is as if there is a collective frenzy of cup lust during the month of March... and for what? A one in six chance to win a muffin? This is a serious problem; I even have enviro friends that give up their reusable mugs for a couple of weeks. It is simply understood that during roll up the rim, the rules about being green somehow no longer apply.

Well, here are the straight goods people. Those "extra" coffees you are drinking to get more cups in the hopes of winning it big are really bad for the environment. Let’s look at a couple of contributing factors.
  • First, most coffee cups are not being recycled properly, as previously mentioned. The first place to look for discarded cups; the garbage bin. The second place; the street. The third place; the river. After that, you can probably find large chunks of cups in the stomachs of birds.
  • Second, cups come from trees. I know that this seems like a really intuitive thing to mention but it seems like people have totally forgotten this. All those cups mean that a whole lot of trees aren’t growing in the forest anymore. I wish that the cups were made from 100% post consumer paper, but they aren’t.
  • Third, those cups are being created from pure unicorn love. They are a concoction of chemicals and plastic based materials that have the potential of doing some serious damage in your body. I do know of people that have said that coffee tastes better when it is in a disposable cup... I mean if you like the taste of wax and plastic and stuff like that, more power to you.
  • And finally, all those cups don’t ascend into disposable cup heaven. No, not at all... they go to a much worse place, the municipal landfill. As mentioned, many cups aren’t recycled and so they are filling up the dumps, and the fact that roll up the rim encourages the idea buying more cups for more chances to win is kinda evil. (Just another random evil thing, Tim Hortons is notorious for not having small coffee sleeves if your beverage is too hot; rather, you get an entirely new cup to put your other cup into.)

Roll up the rim is brilliant in how effective it has been. If Tim Hortons can convince you to spend a couple of more bucks on coffee at the cost of a muffin or donut that only costs the company like 20 cents, than they are certainly coming out on top. Of course, the big loser is the environment and by extension the people that live in it. 

I would love to know how many more cups are sold during roll up the rim just so I could wrap my head around the total damage being done... but maybe I actually don’t want to know because I kind of think it would be too depressing. Whatever, just don’t come to me complaining of a destroyed planet littered with endless fields of coffee cups... you at least got a muffin out of it.

~ jon - campus sustainability manager
photo credit - jonathan rausseo

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