Canadian Teens Beg Tim Hortons to Make 'Roll Up the Rim' Contest Less Wasteful

CC BY 2.0. Wikimedia Commons / Calgary Reviews

Every year, people go crazy buying coffee and tossing the cups, in hopes of winning a prize. It's a ludicrously antiquated model.

Today marks the start of a decades-old Canadian tradition – the annual Roll Up The Rim To Win contest put on by coffee chain Tim Hortons. The name is self-explanatory; you buy a drink in a disposable cup and, once finished, roll up the paper rim to see if you've won a prize, which could range from doughnuts to bicycles, cash, even cars.

People have been going crazy for this contest since 1986. They buy multiple drinks at a time in order to increase their chances of winning, ask for their coffee in double-layered cups, and make a point of buying daily for as long as the contest lasts.

From an environmental perspective, this contest is a disaster, based entirely on disposability. Tim Hortons cups are like most other commercial coffee cups, lined with a thin layer of oil-based polyethylene to prevent liquid from soaking into the paper. Very few facilities have the ability to separate polyethylene and paper for recycling (only 3 out of 450 paper recycling mills in the U.S. can do it), which is a large part of the reason why an estimated 600 billion cups go to landfill annually worldwide. (Tim Hortons claims to sell 2 billion cups of coffee each year.)

At a time when we need to be moving away from single-use disposables and actively rejecting non-recyclable, non-compostable items as unacceptable in a trash-ridden world, 'Roll Up The Rim' feels utterly antiquated.

Fortunately a trio of proactive teens from Calgary, Alberta, is speaking out against it, calling on Tim Hortons to come up with a better solution. Twelve-year-olds Mya Chau and Eve Helman, together with 16-year-old Ben Duthie, have made headlines with their request that Tim Hortons either design a fully recyclable cup or redesign its contest. Duthie is quoted in the National Post:

"If Tim Hortons had some sort of electronic version of the Roll Up the Rim to Win, I think that would be a much more environmentally positive way to run the contest... I do think that would be a challenge for them but I think it's certainly possible."

Their smart suggestions include giving people who bring in reusable cups two chances to win instead of one or handing out stickers (presumably scratchable) or receipts with bar codes that customers can scan. And, of course, they want Tim Hortons to work on designing a fully recyclable or compostable cup.

The teens have launched a petition that already has over 106,000 signatures. They have written a letter to Tim Hortons and been featured on national news networks, but have not yet received a response from the company.

It's nice to know that not everyone in this country is racing to the nearest Timmie's today, just to be able to roll up a rim and throw away a cup. Hopefully Canadians will pay attention to the teens' message and realize that the small, immediate gratification offered by this silly game is hardly worth the amount of trash that it generates. Seriously, people, we live in 2019. There's got to be a smarter, more efficient way of doing this.

It's time we all woke up and smelled the coffee.