I have talked to Tim Hortons brass about the litter problem. The company expresses concern about the rate of littering in the takeaway coffee cup community (TCCC). Like most companies, however, they see littering among the TCCC as a behavioral problem, not a business issue for them. The company’s response to litter is muted, to say the least, but the issue makes officials wince in private. They don’t want their good corporate images suffering any splash back from an association with litter. I don’t see how that can be helped when their branded litter is staring at us from the ground up.
An executive at Tims relays a classic story. It was September 2009, upon the repatriation of Tims’ corporate ownership back to its home roots in Canada from the US. Prime Minister Stephen Harper, like most elected officials, never one to shy away from an opportunistic political play, arranged a tour stop at Hortons’ HQ for a rah-rah session. He skipped a high level UN meeting in New York to visit Tims executives and self-credit Conservative policies for the company’s decision to transfer its corporate paperwork after being 15 years registered in Delaware.
Harper was due to show up at the Oakville head office and protesters knew it. They would be dogging him at this particular campaign stop. But first they would all meet at the franchised Tim Hortons outlet at the corner and grab some refreshments to go.
People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) showed up, angry about the seal hunt. Environmentalists - anyone with an axe to grind, their takeout coffees, bagged goodies in hand and placards - rallied in front of Tim Hortons’ Oakville nerve centre that day. Even the PETA seal mascot had a large coffee in hand. The ballyhoo was over soon enough without incident. But at the end of it all corporate officials had to shake their heads when they saw all the packaging the protesters had left outside, littered about.
I guess we know where the problem really lays, right people? With people. Hockey dad Harper loves his Tims, but does he ever talk about litter? No, at least not to my knowledge. Protesters, they love the planet, but do they respect the earth? Not in this story.
Back to the contest business for a moment, and the Hortons chain isn’t the only one that can be blamed for product litter (McDonald’s, are you reading this?) – coffee contest promoters have an obligation to recognize that their peel-off promotions generate even more littered cups and lids, and let’s not forget stir sticks and creamers. Roll up, sure folks, but not throw down.