In Canada: Re-Usable Coffee Cup War with McDonald's

Along with the growing popularity of coffee and drinking it on the go, there’s been a parallel increase in paper waste due to disposable cups. To deal with that, environmentally concerned consumers have suggested using reusable cups. Many coffee shops picked up the idea and are giving discounts to those who bring in their own cups. One coffee seller has rejected the idea of reusable cups.

This week a Canadian news outlet reported that McDonald’s has banned the reusable cups from its drive-thru’s and restaurants. The issue is health. The fast food chain is concerned because they cannot control the cleanliness and sanitation of mugs provided by customers. It’s possible that one customer’s contaminated cup could spread the contamination to those of others and so McDonald's has opted for the safest and most sanitary choice: the disposable cup. Two examples of chains that use the reusable mugs are Canadian giant Tim Horton’s and Beanz Espresso Bar. Tim’s gives a ten cent discount while Beanz gives next size up for the same prize when cups are brought in by customers. A Beanz server is quoted as saying that there is no danger of cross-contamination because the servers wash their hands between customers and use disposable or fresh spoons when needed.

The comments section yielded some interesting responses from readers. They were divided on whether or not McDonald’s is right on this issue. One barista said it’s too hard to know how to measure when using the variety of cups people offer them. In other words, it’s impractical - an important point. Another reader wanted to know the scientific proof that contamination could occur from splashes etc., since the coffee isn’t hot enough to kill bacteria - due to the burn potential. (Just ask McDonald's about THAT issue!) One suggests the coffee be measured in the restaurant’s cup and poured into the customer’s cup. This is reminiscent of the way milkshakes used to be prepared; the shop used metal reusable containers and poured the shake into serving glasses.

Much the same procedure could be adapted for coffee shops, with the possible exceptions of lattes and cappuccinos, of course. Most consumers are likely torn between the health issue and the environmental concerns. However nice it sounds that servers are instructed to wash hands between customers, during busy times that will probably be ignored. There are no guarantees that every server will be scrupulous in the sanitation department. A Google search failed to turn up state health regs, but a former Washington state barista from a few years back said the law stipulated that only shop-provided cups could be used. This makes sense in lieu of the huge liabilities faced by food serving establishments these litigation-happy days.

So brew at home or use the disposables and drink your coffee in good health. Check CoffeeKind for several coffees you won’t get from a drive-thru.

Leave a comment

Please note, comments must be approved before they are published

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.