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I stopped at the local Tim Hortons last weekend asking if they could fill my reusable coffee cup.

They said no, they couldn’t refill while pointing to a new sign on their counter from corporate headquarters saying that in an attempt to provide for the safety of their customers, they will not refill reusables while the coronavirus still posed a threat.

I had just sanitized my cup but the only one they could serve coffee in was the plastic lined ones with the plastic lids that are not compostable. You know, the ones that you find as litter all over town and that fill the landfill and contribute to health hazards of another kind.

I’m not sure what bothered me more, the hypocrisy of Tim Hortons’ failure to address the environmental hazards their products pose at the landfill or their mistaken attempts to stop the spread of the virus which is fear mongering at best.

We are all familiar with their plastic iced cappuccino cups that fill their garbage cans everyday during the spring and summer and those cups end up by the thousands in the dump or on the land where they are buried contributing to air, water and land pollution. If you ever speak to the managers of some of these outlets, they say their hands are tied by head office.

That which ends up in the landfill, as we all know by now, break down into minuscule microplastics contaminating water, wildlife and eventually our bodies contributing to liver, kidney and heart disease.

On the second point, I think we have to be careful about the mounting problem we have with promoting fear about the coronavirus. A story on CBC news Sunday night said that in their attempts to keep seniors safe, some senior centers in Vancouver were limiting visiting privileges.

However, the seniors’ advocate interviewed said that doing that further contributed to the social isolation experienced by one of the groups that already suffers from loneliness to the detriment of their mental and even physical health. This extra precaution could very well contribute to this downward spiral.

Further, I’m sure many of us saw the woman interviewed in another CBC newscast who, when asked why she was buying so much toilet paper, said she saw others stocking up so thought she should too.  Herd mentality goes hand in hand with fear mongering.

Doctors are telling us that the only items we should be stocking up on is a two week supply of necessary prescription drugs and enough food for that same period just in case they are quarantined. That’s it. When people hoard based on unreasonable fear, that could mean that there will not be enough food or other essentials to meet the needs of the vulnerable and food banks faced with the growing shortfall of badly needed supplies.

When fast food companies say they will not refill your reusable cup because of their concern about your health, that is a commercial gimmick designed to earn a false sense of trust.

We are literally supporting industries that are killing us and making no attempt to stop them. 

Pre-ban credit

To their credit, before they decided to stop refilling reusables, Tim Hortons was going to give away a limited number for free as an expression of its concern for the environment.  Let’s hope other fast food outlets follow suit. And I guess we should show some appreciation of the effort to express concern for customers, health by refusing to refill reusables – even if their thinking is misguided.

The bottom line is, if they truly cared, all fast food outlets would install sanitizers and insist on metal reusables for everything – just like the good old days before plastic became our nemesis.

In the meantime, it is contingent on all of us to put pressure on these companies to be more responsible since their practices are customer driven.  This is not just about the coronavirus, it’s about the health of the planet and a reflection of our own caring attitudes to those generations that will follow.

We can do better.  We can demand more. We can act on behalf of those we are protecting this planet for – and that is not just ourselves. 

Postscript: Be the change.

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