Blind World Magazine

Biodegradable coffee cups made by blind and visually impaired workers.

Chronicle Herald, Nova Scotia, Canada.
Monday, May 29, 2006.

WESTPORT - Wally and Joyce DeVries say they used to get upset when they saw the plastic cups from their general store and cafe in the ditch on Brier Island, but now they're not quite as concerned.

That's because they've switched to biodegradable coffee cups.

"If I go for a walk now and see (a cup) lying in the ditch, I can walk five weeks from now in the same ditch and it's disappeared," Mr. DeVries said Friday. "It's just completely gone."

They heard about the cups when a distributor was promoting them at the Juno Awards in Halifax this winter.

The cups are made by blind and visually impaired workers in Cincinnati and distributed by a Toronto company called Green Shift.

Instead of a plastic or polyethylene coating, used in standard coffee cups to retain heat, the biodegradable cups are lined with a resin coating made from vegetables. Green Shift claims the cups will disintegrate in about 48 days.

The Brier Island business is among the first in the province to use the cups. Mr. DeVries said the reason more coffee shops aren't using them is because they cost twice as much as regular plastic or paper cups.

The couple has had to increase the price of a cup of coffee by 20 cents to pay for the new cups, but that hasn't hurt business since there's no competition on the tiny island off Digby Neck.

Mr. DeVries said most customers don't realize the stark white cups are biodegradable, but the ones who have read the fine print on the bottom of the cups are happy with the environmentally friendly choice.

"There's about 10 per cent of people who really think they're fantastic," he said.

Although environmental groups have been pressuring large coffee companies like Tim Hortons to use biodegradable cups, Mr. DeVries suspects it'll be awhile before those companies make the switch.

"Unless they're being mass-produced and come down in price and unless the customers demand it, I don't see it happening," he said.


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