Reducing the Use of Disposable

Cups on Campus

 

 

 

 

A Case Study at the Tim Hortons

in the Modern Languages Cafeteria

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Submitted to: Susan Wismer

Submitted by: Janet Baic, Alison Dyck,

Ricki Oltean-Lepp, Stephen Lockwood

Course Code: ERS 250

Date: April 3, 2001

 

 

Executive Summary

Coffee is a major commodity consumed in North America. The students, staff, and faculty at the University of Waterloo are no exception and last year over 400,000 cups of coffee were sold on campus. Approximately 300,000 of these cups were from the three Tim Hortons locations on campus (Chalmers, 2001). The disposable cups create 30% of waste in campus garbages (McGraff, 2001). This amount of preventable waste that is being generated from this University is the concern that has arisen from these facts. Patrons at these Tim Hortons are using too many disposable cups when there is an easy alternative: the reusable mug.

This project was developed to assess the reasons why patrons did or did not use disposable cups at the Tim Hortons in the Modern Languages building on the UW campus. The objectives of the research team were to find out why reusable mugs were not used by surveying the patrons, to raise awareness of the consequences of using disposable cups (i.e. the waste generated), to observe a potential change in the use of disposable cups after surveys, interviews, and signs were put into place, and to decrease disposable cup use. Based on our findings we hoped to increase the use of reusable mugs by implementing a plan that pertained to what the patrons answered in the surveys.

It was discovered that people knew about the negative environmental effects of the waste generated by the use of disposable cups but this did not affect their habits. It was also discovered that many people were unfamiliar with the cost savings when using a reusable mug at the Tim Hortons and 75% of the people that didn’t know said that this knowledge would affect their choices. That is why it was decided to put up signs indicating the cost savings throughout the Modern Languages cafeteria.

It was then found that these signs only marginally increased people’s knowledge of the cost savings but this could have been because the signs were ineffective or because they were continually taken down by janitors. Another problem was that Tim Hortons’ Roll-up-the-Rim campaign was going on at the same time, increasing the number of people who used disposable cups instead of reusable mugs.

From these results, it was recommended that permanent signs be put up in the Modern Languages, and other, cafeterias indicating both cost savings when using reusable mugs and environmental problems associated with disposable cups. Mugs should be given out in the Frosh Kits once again and the discount should be increased so that it will entice more people. Tim Hortons should be encouraged to present an alternative to Roll-up-the-Rim contests for people who use reusable mugs so that they will not have to forfeit using their mugs to have the chance to win a prize. A community based social marketing strategy should be implemented to determine which sign designs are most effective in getting people to change their activities. Finally, a recycling program should be made available for the plastic coffee cup lids so that at least some of the waste from the disposable cups will be diverted from the landfills.

 

Table of Contents

Pg.

Executive Summary ii

1.0 Introduction 1

1.1 Sustainability 1

1.2 Problem Statement 2

2.0 Background Information 4

2.1 Literature Review 4

2.2 Target Audience/Stakeholders 5

2.3 Key and Supporting Actors 5

3.0 Conceptual Framework 6

4.0 Research Method 8

5.0 Results 11

5.1 Results Before Signs Were Put Up 11

5.2 Results After Signs Were Posted 13

5.3 Results From Interviews With Tim Hortons Staff 14

6.0 Conclusions 15

7.0 Recommendations 16

8.0 Annotated Bibliography 17

Appendix A - Literature Review…...……………………………………...…………….19

Appendix B - Research Tools…………………………………...……………………….21

Appendix C - Cost Savings Poster……………………………………………………….25

Appendix D - Schedule of Tasks...………………………………………………………27

Appendix E - Presentation Overheads…………………………...………………………29

 

List of Figures

Figure 1: Conceptual Framework…………………………………………………………6

Figure 2: Why People Use Reusable Mugs When They Purchase Coffee on Campus….11

Figure 3: Why People Use Disposable Cups When They Purchase Coffee on

Campus…………………………………………………………………………..12

Figure 4: Percentage of People Who Were Aware of Cost Savings When Using a Reusable Mug……………………………………………………………………12

Figure 5: People Who Said That Knowing About the Cost Savings Would Influence Their Behaviour………………………………………………………………….13

Figure 6: Knowledge About the Cost Savings Before and After Putting up

Signs………………………………………………………………………...……14

Figure 7: Use of Reusable Mugs Before and After Putting up Signs ...…………………14

Reducing the Use of Disposable Cups on Campus

 

1.0 Introduction

For completion of an Environment and Resource Studies (ERS) degree at the University of Waterloo each student must complete a course called "Greening the Campus". David Orr introduced the main ideas behind this course. It was his belief that university campuses should model the world that their students seek to create. The intent of this course was to make a direct contribution to enhancing the sustainability of the campus and the broader community in which it is located (Wismer Outline, 2001). Our group became interested in reducing the number of disposable cups used on campus and contributing to the reduction of waste on campus. Through this ERS 250 course we were able to take on the responsibilities of conducting this research study to gain a better understanding of the human rationale behind particular decisions that effect everyday lives.

This study was focused on just one of the three Tim Hortons locations on campus due to time restraints. The Tim Hortons in the Modern Language building became the center of the study. Coffee drinkers were questioned with surveys concerning their use of disposable or reusable cups, depending on which they were using. This particular Tim Hortons had not been previously studied so there was no previous specific data for this site. However, data was available for the coffee shop at Math and Computers, which provided some background information for this study.

1.1 Sustainability

The Canadian Oxford Dictionary states that the word sustain means "to undergo, experience, or suffer; endure without giving way or yielding" (p. 1462). The University of Waterloo seeks to run a sustainable campus. This means that the campus can survive through the burdens it bears and continue to be a working, surviving, environment. In order for this campus to sustain the steady flows in and out of it, it must be cautious and aware of consequences of all of its decisions. There must be an understanding of input and output flows. The University is not just an entity on its own. It also must be aware of the systems in which it fits into as a part of sustaining not only its own contained area but also the environment that surrounds it.

1.2 Problem Statement

At the University of Waterloo approximately 400,000 coffee cups are disposed of annually from various coffee shops and cafeterias around campus (Chalmers, 2001). Students, faculty and staff of this University are adding unnecessary waste into the system that will be generated out into the city landfills. As the state of the environment in Ontario is in a very poor condition and this is a problem that is likely to get worse before it gets better, the University of Waterloo has a responsibility to future generations to not only teach its students about particular subjects but to ensure that these students leave with an environmental awareness that will help to maintain the world around them. We needed to understand why students, faculty and staff continued to use disposable cups so that a plan can be implemented to start reducing the use of them and start increasing the use of reusable mugs. The problem is of value because waste is being generated from this campus and 30% of the garbage is made up of disposable cups. It is the responsibility of the University to promote sustainability and reducing the amount of waste generated from this campus would be a step in the right direction.

The main reason for this study is to find out why people use disposable cups over reusable mugs. Once an understanding is in place about the use of different cups we can assess an alternative plan to persuade students to use reusable mugs. Important concepts to be examined in this study involve understanding the rationale of coffee drinkers using disposable cups and what type of programs could be implemented to help reduce the use of these cups. In this study the idea of raising awareness and gaining a greater understanding of why coffee drinkers at the Tim Hortons in the Modern Languages (ML) building don't use reusable mugs will help to implement a process of decreasing use of disposable cups. This study is based on a relational research method, which will relate raised awareness of the use of reusable mugs to the decrease in usage of disposable cups. This method is qualitative because the research is done to find out why reusable mugs are not used instead of disposable cups. With this knowledge a suggestion may arise as to how an increase could occur.

The major question being asked in this study was, "would raising awareness through the use of signs and surveys increase the use of reusable mugs and therefore decrease the use of disposable cups?"

The objectives of the research team were to find out why reusable mugs were not used by surveying the patrons, to raise awareness of the consequences of using disposable cups (the waste generated), to observe a potential change in the use of disposable cups after surveys and signs were put into place, and to decrease disposable cup use. Based on our findings we hoped to increase the use of reusable mugs by implementing a plan that pertained to what the patrons answered in the surveys.

 

2.0 Background Information

In 1990 an agreement was made between Waterloo Public Interest Research Group (WPIRG) and the Department of Food Services, at which time portable mugs became available at all Food Services outlets across campus. Disposable cup usage was reduced by half (Torreiter, 1994). The disposable cups create 30% of waste in campus garbage’s (McGraff, 2001). Seven years ago, in 1994, a fourth year Honours Thesis for a 490ERS course focused on the use of lug-a-mugs on campus and a campaign was set into place to reduce the use of reusable cups. Recently it has been noticed that the use of disposable cups has risen. Today there are 3 Tim Hortons on campus and 2000 Tim Hortons currently in Canada (Tim Hortons 2001). This amount of preventable waste that is being generated from this University is the concern that has arisen from these facts. Students are using too many disposable cups when there is an easy alternative: the reusable mug.

2.1 Literature Review

This section deals with information that was considered when we were putting together this report. More information about all of these sources can be found in Appendix A.

The two main sources were the past projects done in 1994 and in 1995 (Reducing Waste at the Math and Computer’s Coffee and Donut Shop) pertaining to the disposable cup issue helped us to gain an understanding of the actual ongoing problem. From them we saw that we needed to conduct surveys and make observations. From the 1995 project we noted that they only looked at why patrons didn’t use reusable mugs and from that we decided to not only look at why patrons don’t use reusable mugs but also to implement a plan to increase the use. Both projects gave us an outline for the way in which our project was conducted.

Our project contributes in a way that is trying to build and revive past attempts at reducing the usage of disposable cups. There have been attempts in the past that have succeeded for a short while but once the issue had faded care dwindled as well. We wanted to find out the reasons behind lack of participation in using reusable mugs to get to the center of the problem and find solid working solution.

2.2 Target Audience/Stakeholders

The location for the surveying and interviews was the Tim Hortons in the Modern Languages building located across from the Environmental Studies building on the University of Waterloo campus. This particular location had never before been under review, which is why we decided to focus on it. This study is important to the users of disposable cups at the Tim Hortons at Modern Languages. It pertains specifically to them because they are the ones using the disposable cups, making them the source of the problem. With education and understanding of the problem they can begin to help us with solutions. Increasing the use of reusable mugs will not only reduce waste but also reduce the cost for Tim Hortons. Disposable cups cost Tim Hortons money while reusable cups do not.

2.3 Key and Supporting Actors

The key participants in this project were the students, faculty and staff who purchased coffee from the Tim Hortons located in Modern Languages and the staff at the Tim Hortons. The supporting actors were Jeff Chalmers, Assistant Director of Food Services at UW, and Patti Cook, Head of Waste Management at UW, both of whom provided information about the operations, i.e. cost and number of cups used, at the Tim Hortons on campus.

3.0 Conceptual Framework

 

Closed

System

 



 

 

 

Figure 1: Conceptual Framework

The framework behind our project is depicted above (Figure 1). It includes the Tim Hortons located inside the Modern Languages cafeteria as the focal point of our research. The companies who supply Tim Hortons with disposable coffee cups are at the edge of the input end of our system as is the UW campus where the patrons of Tim Hortons come from. Reusable mugs also enter the system at this point with some of the patrons. The outputs of the system of research included disposable cups, which are deposited into garbages and then go to the Waterloo landfill, and reusable cups which create a closed loop within the system.

The assumptions behind this framework are, for one, that the disposable coffee cups purchased at Tim Hortons in the ML building are thrown into garbage containers on campus by the patrons after use. Another would be that the garbage is then picked up and eventually ends up at the Waterloo landfill. Also, this system assumes that there will be no other inputs into the system besides what is stated above. The final assumption is that most of the patrons of the Tim Hortons in this location are students, and some are faculty and other staff members.

Similar frameworks have been used in past student projects, as well as more specific frameworks that focus on one aspect of the main system such as the actor groups. This framework was useful for our study because it helped to stabilize the boundaries of the study, and to focus us on the aspects that should have been included in the study. For example, other waste generated from Tim Hortons and other suppliers that they are associated with them could have been included, but this would not have been relevant to this project.

4.0 Research Method

For this project, primary data collection was carried out in three ways: observations, surveys, and interviews. In order to assess the number of people who use reusable mugs at the Tim Hortons (TH) located in the Modern Languages building (ML), people who purchase coffee at this location were observed to see if they were using a reusable mug and were then surveyed to determine why they chose to use a mug or not. In addition to this, the staff at this TH were interviewed in order for the research team to try to determine a historical use of reusable mugs at this location. Key informant interviews were carried out with Jeff Chalmers, Assistant Director of Food Services at UW, and Patti Cook, Head of Waste Management at UW. Finally, analysis of secondary data from previous WATgreen projects was used, as well as information to ensure that the action taken from the information that was gathered would have an impact on the behaviour of those who purchase coffee in ML.

There were some assumptions made at the outset of this project. It was assumed that the number of people that would be using reusable mugs during the observation and survey component of the project would be representative of all of the patrons who purchased coffee at this location. People’s responses to the questions posed to them were also assumed to be representative of the entire population, defined as all of the people who have or will purchase coffee at the TH in ML. To ensure that the observations and participants’ responses were representative, a large enough sample would have had to have been obtained and the sampling technique chosen would have to have been probabilistic. This means that the sample sets (in this case the people) were chosen to ensure that "the distribution of relevant attributes in the sample mirrored the distribution of those attributes in the population" (Palys, p.123). However, the type of sampling that was used in this project was accidental, which is a form of non-probabilistic sampling. In accidental sampling, choosing the sample set "involves little more than getting who you can" (Palys, p. 137). Since the research team approached all people purchasing coffee on the sampling days, they were not taking a representative sample of all coffee purchasers on campus or at that location but rather just those that happened to be purchasing coffee during those days and times. This sampling technique was ideal for this project because it would have been very strenuous to contact all of the people who purchased coffee at the TH in ML through random sampling, however it limited the researchers abilities to generate universals (Palys, p.137).

All research for this project was done as a group. Each group member was responsible for observing coffee purchasers in ML and administering the survey. A schedule was drawn up to ensure that the times that the cafeteria was being monitored covered a broad range of times during each day. As well, two group members were responsible for interviewing the TH staff and the other two for carrying out the two key informant interviews. The TH staff members were interviewed while the patron sampling was being conducted one day and the key informant interviews were conducted early on in the project to get some background information, such as the number of cups used in 1999.

This location was chosen because Tim Hortons cups account for over 75% of all coffee cups purchased on campus (Chalmers, 2001). There were also a high number of people using this TH at this time (Winter term) so it was possible to obtain a large sample.

The tools that were used to carry out this research included a questionnaire for TH staff, a survey of people purchasing coffee at TH, observations to see how many people brought a reusable mug when they purchased coffee, and key informant interviews to determine specific information (number of cups used at the TH; cost savings on coffee when using reusable mugs). Copies of the patron survey, observation form, and staff questionnaire are attached (Appendix B). The two key informant interviews were very brief and informal in nature and no interview forms were drawn up.

These tools were pre-tested on one of the group members’ roommates and the people in his building (this pre-test sample included both people who used and did not use reusable mugs), as well as some people in the ERS 250 class. This was one way to ensure that the survey and questionnaire did not include leading questions, loaded response categories or phrases, and vague or complex words and phrases. As well, these tools provided an excellent way to manage and record the data. They helped to ensure that data were collected in a consistent way and allowed for uncomplicated comparisons.

This project focused on the analytic approach to data analysis which included: establishing temporal precedence through baseline data; using observation, literature review, comparative data gathering, and primary data gathering techniques to determine if a change had taken place or was likely to occur; addressing external validity and reliability; and developing and testing explanations for findings by using rigorous theory and data comparison (Wismer, 2001).

Finally, since this project focused on finding out why people do not use reusable mugs and altering this behaviour through changing people’s perceptions (their mindset related to disposable cups), the impact of the correlation between values and actions was addressed as well. If values and perceptions do not have the ability to influence a person’s behaviour this project would have been done in vain. It was therefore necessary to investigate the impact of our actions on people’s behaviour, which was done through secondary data.

5.0 Results

5.1 Results Before Signs Were Put Up

The initial surveys that were conducted were done to determine the most effective way to try and increase the use of reusable mugs on campus. We surveyed 60 patrons who were purchasing a hot beverage at the Tim Hortons in the ML cafeteria.

If the patron was using a reusable mug they were asked why they had chosen to do so (Figure 2). Most people stated that they were using reusable mugs to reduce the waste caused by the use of disposable cups.

Figure 2: Why People Use Reusable Mugs When They Purchase Coffee on Campus

If the patrons weren’t using a reusable mug they were asked why they were not using one (Figure 3). Most respondents indicated the reason they were using a disposable cup was one other than the options we had given. Many people said this reason was Roll-up-the-Rim. The second most popular reason for not using a reusable mug was convenience.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Figure 3: Why People Use Disposable Cups When They Purchase Coffee on Campus

The next question that was asked was whether respondents would consider using a reusable mug if one was provided to them at no cost: 81% of respondents said that they would. The respondents were also asked whether they were aware of the cost savings that they could receive if they purchased coffee in a reusable mug (Figure 4). A large percentage of the patrons that were surveyed were not aware of this information.

Figure 4: Percentage of People Who Were Aware of Cost Savings When Using Reusable Mugs

If the patron wasn’t aware of the cost savings they were asked whether knowing about the savings would influence their decision to use a reusable mug (Figure 5). 75% of respondents stated that this would be an influence.

Figure 5: People Who Said That Knowing About the Cost Savings Would Influence Their Behaviour

Finally, the patrons were asked whether they were aware that using a reusable mug would help to reduce the amount of waste on campus. 100% of the respondents were aware of this information. Therefore, from the initial surveys it was determined that an effective way to encourage the use of reusable mugs on campus would be to advertise the cost savings.

5.2 Results After Signs Were Posted

Several signs were posted throughout the Modern Languages Cafeteria advertising the cost savings of using a reusable mug. After the signs were posted another 60 Tim Hortons patrons were surveyed to see if there had been any changes in their knowledge or use of reusable mugs. It was believed that the knowledge of the cost savings after the signs were posted would have been close to 100% but this was not the case. There was only a 7% increase in the amount of knowledge patrons had after the signs (Figure 6).

Figure 6: Knowledge About the Cost Savings Before and After Putting up Signs

The use of reusable mugs after the signs were posted also increased only marginally (Figure 7). This is not a good indicator of the signs' effectiveness to get people to use reusable mugs because of our non-probabilistic sampling technique.

Figure 7: Use of Reusable Mugs Before and After Putting up Signs

5.3 Results From Interviews With Tim Hortons Staff

Another method that was used to obtain information was interviewing Tim Hortons staff. Two Tim Hortons staff were interviewed before the signs were posted to see if they had observed anything that would be relevant to our project. The Tim Hortons staff estimated that 1/3 of the patrons used reusable mugs. This was slightly higher than the data that was gathered from the surveys.

6.0 Conclusions

From these results it can be concluded that the signs that were posted did not have a very large impact on the knowledge of cost savings (7% increase) or on the use of reusable mugs. There are several plausible explanations for this.

The signs that were posted may not have been in the most effective locations. As well, the signs may not have been designed in the most effective way or the color or the wording may not have been noticeable enough. Several times throughout the study the signs had to be replaced because they were taken down by the custodians. This may also have had an effect on our results.

Many respondents stated that if the Roll-up-the-Rim promotion were not on they would be using a reusable mug. However, it was found that what people say often doesn’t translate into action. 75% of the respondents who did not know about the cost savings in the initial survey stated that they would use a reusable mug knowing this information. The small increase in the use of mugs after the signs were posted indicates that many people do not follow through by doing what they said they would.

Another conclusion that can be made from this study is that the patrons of Tim Hortons do not see environmental degradation as a very important issue. 100% of the respondents stated they were aware of the waste that disposable cups produced. This number was no where near the amount of patrons using reusable mugs. Judging from the reasons why people use disposable cups, winning and convenience seem to be higher priorities than the environment.

7.0 Recommendations

There are a number of recommendations that came from this project. They include: permanent signs, mugs distributed in Frosh Kits, a community based social marketing strategy, increasing the discount if possible, an alternative to Roll-up-the-Rim for people who use reusable mugs, and recycling the plastic lids on disposable cups.

From the surveys we found that there was a lack of knowledge pertaining to the discount received when a reusable mug is used. Putting up permanent signs, similar to the one in Appendix C, with the appropriate information will increase knowledge of the discount and encourage students to bring their own mug. As well, although 100% of the respondents said that they knew about the environmental effects of waste, it would still be worthwhile to have a permanent sign indicating this fact to serve as a constant reminder to people. Currently there is no way to recycle the lids of the disposable coffee cups, which are in fact recyclable. If we can't decrease the use of disposable cups then alternative plans need to be taken into consideration to help divert waste.

The Roll-up-the-Rim contest has a drastic influence over coffee drinkers. People who would normally use a reusable mug were leaving them at home for a chance to win on the disposable Roll-up-the-Rim contest cups. Our hopes are that eventually a project could deal with alternatives to Roll-up-the-Rim such as handing out scratch tickets instead of putting the contest directly on the cups. Another suggestion is having a contest just for people who use reusable mugs.

Many people said that they would probably use reusable mugs if the discount they received was greater. This is something that should be examined with Food Services staff. They should also be informed that reusable mugs should be given out in Frosh Kits once again so that each first year student will have a reusable mug to use.

Finally, a study should be done to determine the most effective ways to get people to change their habits, including determining what types of signs are most likely to get people’s attention. Further ERS 250 studies could be done on this issue but it would be best to focus on these recommendations, especially trying to figure out how to effectively change people’s habits, rather than trying to reinvent the wheel to find out why people do not use reusable mugs.

8.0 Annotated Bibliography

Cook, Patti. Personal interview. 23 Jan. 2001.

The Waste Management Coordinator for UW, she introduced us to the concept of Greening the Campus and gave support all throughout our project and feedback on our proposal. She was also able to provide us with key past WATgreen projects that were integral in setting up the background for this topic.

Chalmers, Jeff. Personal interview. 18 Jan. 2001.

Mr. Chalmers is the Assistant Director of Food Services at UW. He helped us by providing statistics on the number of coffee cups sold throughout Food Services and throughout Tim Hortons on campus for 1999.

McGraff, Nick. ERS 250 Presentation. 20 March 2001.

Mr. McGraff and his group spoke about the composition of the garbage on campus, which was the topic for their ERS 250 course project this term. Mr. McGraff was able to provide us with a number for cups that end up in the garbage.

WATgreen: Greening the Campus. As accessed 1 Feb. 2001.

http://www.adm.uwaterloo.ca/infowast/watgreen

This is the official general homepage for the WATgreen project at the University of Waterloo. It contains a directory of all past WATgreen/Greening the Campus course projects as well as general information about Greening the Campus.

Wismer, Susan. ERS 250 Course Outline and Class Notes. 9 Jan. 2001, 13 Feb. 2001.

Susan Wismer was the professor for the ERS 250 course in Winter 2001 and provided general information about Greening the Campus in the Course Outline and more specific project information in later classes. She also helped by reviewing our project proposals and answering difficult questions along the way.

Tim Hortons. As accessed 30 March 2001.

http://www.timhortons.com/english/english.html

This website provided us with basic information about Tim Hortons, specifically the number of their locations in Canada.

Reducing Waste at the Math and Computer's Coffee and Donut Shop. As accessed 21 Jan. 2001.

http://www.adm.uwaterloo.ca/infowast/watgreen/projects/library/910/final.html

This project was a previous Greening the Campus class project which looked at how to eliminate disposable cups for the Math C&D. This report provided valuable background information for our report and also helped to corroborate some of our findings.

Torreiter, Michael Anton. The Elimination of Disposable Cups at the University of Waterloo. 18 April 1994.

This report was done as part of an ERS 490 Senior Honours Thesis and again provided us with background information. Of substantial interest in this report was financial comparisons showing that it is more economical to use reusable mugs and a life cycle assessment which showed that reusable mugs are indeed more environmentally friendly than paper or styrofoam cups.

Palys, Ted. Research Decisions: Quantitative and Qualitative Perspectives. Toronto: Harcourt Brace, 1997 (p. 123, 137).

This book was the textbook for the ERS 250 course and provided much relevant help in carrying out our project. Perhaps the most important part it played was in allowing us to determine the exact nature of our research methodology.

The Canadian Oxford Dictionary. Toronto: Oxford University Press, 1998 (p. 1462).

This source provided us with a technical definition of sustainability, that we then molded to a more workable and practical one for the purposes of our project.