Reusable takeaway cups a viable option to single-use disposable cups
Waste reduction strategies in health care have been gaining considerable momentum as more of us become aware of the impact disposable items have on our planet and human health. The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has presented additional challenges including the need for extra disposable items like masks, forcing us to be more creative in our solutions.
One such challenge, single-use disposable cups, was identified by Caitlin Elliott, the Area Manager of Café Ami at Vancouver General Hospital (VGH), UBC Hospital (UBCH) and Petit Ami on Granville Island. Caitlin was acutely aware of the ecological footprint created by the waste generated from disposable cups. While Café Ami has offered a “bring-your-own mug” discount for 30 years, because of the importance of infection prevention and control (IPAC) in the hospital during the height of the pandemic, her team was not allowed to handle customer’s personal mugs in 2020 and 2021.
To tackle this problem, Café Ami partnered with ShareWares, a Vancouver-based company that aims to create localized sustainable circular ecosystems. They introduced reusable takeaway cups, which are then cleaned and sanitized at an off-site facility, meeting IPAC criteria.
The timing was apt, as the City of Vancouver began charging a $0.25 fee for single use cups. While there is a deposit of $1.50 with the ShareWares program, it’s fully refundable. To use the program, customers simply ask for a ShareWares cup when ordering their drink. To receive the refund, via an e-transfer, used cups are returned to designated ShareWares bins using QR code technology so there is no need to line up.
ShareWares has reported that VGH has been one of their most successful program participants, and continues to have a growing base of regular users.
There is often a perception that waste reduction initiatives will be more expensive, more work and won’t have the support needed to succeed. The ShareWares reusable cup program at Café Ami has shown that the complete opposite is true. With strong support from IPAC, cost neutrality for customers and hands-off operations, it is a great example of sustainability at VGH and some clever thinking.
Learn more about ShareWares and how they operate here.