Catoro's Zero Waste Solution

Catoro’s solution is to offer all of our cups in a biodegradable plastic, polylactic acid (PLA), which we are the first to use in the city. However, the type of cup we offer is only half of the solution. At Catoro, there will be no garbage bins for drinks to be thrown away. Instead your cups will be taken back when you finish your drink, or when you bring it back the next time you visit. We are taking recycling into our own hands! Each PLA cup that is returned will be cleaned, then broken down for processing, all in house. The broken down material will then be refined to be used as 3D printer filament, which will be available to support the local design community. 

With the BC government introducing a plastic straw ban in 2019, Catoro is pleased to be a provider of a 100% reusable straw to customers. The type of straws we’ve selected are also a first for Vancouver. Catoro straws are 100% genuine bamboo. Our bamboo comes from Ta-pieh Mountain in Anhui, China, one of the world’s oldest, sustainably managed forests. They have been commercially harvesting bamboo in this region for several hundred years. The bamboo industry in Anhui sustains 10,000 farming families and represents the new face of manufacturing in China: clean and sustainable. Also, bamboo is a fast-growing plant. The more you cut, the faster it grows. It is natural without any added chemicals, eco-friendly, biodegradable, compostable, and reusable

2.6 Million Cups Per Week

At Catoro, our mission is to create new standards and sustainable practices around recycling and waste management in the quick serve food industry, to work towards a zero waste vision. We also aim to introduce the concept of upcycling on a larger scale to go hand-in-hand with our recycling initiatives.

Each week, 2.6 million cups are thrown away in Vancouver, making up 22 percent of the total trash collected. This costs us $2.5 million dollars per year to sort through and takes up more than 50% of the space in public waste bins.

The average consumer is willing to carry their garbage about twelve steps to find recycling, composting or disposal options. Even with the vast ongoing initiatives to reduce waste in the city, the majority of disposal options in our city in public spaces is still simple garbage bins that are disposed of at the landfill.

It is incredibly difficult to alter the behavior of a society when the current method is built upon convenience. If we continue on this path, our government’s solution is to tax businesses for disposable cups used. This will only lead to businesses increasing prices in order to compensate. But ultimately it doesn’t solve our underlying waste issue.

Is Reusable the Only Way?

The cost to produce reusable cups and straws is high, which prevents most businesses from being able to incorporate them into their business model without hindering their margins or placing the cost back on the customer. The use of reusable cups and straws requires the consumer to have access to running water to clean their cups. When we already don’t have access to enough recycling bins, it’s difficult to expect that there will be enough areas to wash our reusable cups. If we are not going anywhere within a short period of time that has access to running water, our empty drink cups will begin to turn bad and smell. Many advocates of reusable cups make the comparison between water bottles and other drink cups. However they neglect to mention that water bottles can be left for days not being cleaned without the worry of it spoiling, whereas for all other drinks you may only have a few hours of time to clean them.

Furthermore, most consumers are moving to reduce the amount of things they need to take with them in their day-to-day lives. This is why the use of storing cards on phones is evermore increasing as people don’t need to carry their wallets as they did in the past. Adding a bulky cup to your daily essentials is not a simple practice for everyone to adopt. At Catoro, we recognize the difficulty with this model and have a better solution.

The Sorting Problem

As mentioned above, it costs us $2.5 million dollars per year to sort through the cups that we throw away. Even though many proactive businesses offer “compostable” or “biodegradable” options, it still doesn’t solve the issues if the waste is not managed properly. When cups get recycled by consumers, many of them cannot be accepted by recycling depots due to contamination. The cups may come back dirty and full of liquid still, but that’s not the biggest issue. There are many types of plastics used for different businesses. When one type of plastic is mixed in with another that can’t be identified, it cannot be processed. Only plastics of the same chemical properties can be recycled together. This causes an expensive bottleneck problem on the collection and processing side.

Vision For A Circular Economy

Taiwan, the place where bubble tea first started, has one of the highest recycling rates in the world. Just 25 years ago, Taiwan was nicknamed “Garbage Island” with only 70% of trash being collected and virtually no recycling. After years of protest and changes, Taiwan is now leading the world in its recycling initiatives. 55% of household and commercial waste is recycled, as well as 77% of industrial waste. But how did they achieve this?

  • 1600 recycling companies bringing in over $2 billion USD per year in revenue
  • Creative upcycling (the process of transforming by-products, waste materials, useless, or unwanted products into creative new materials or products of better quality and environmental value) companies reusing recycled materials for new products
  • Introduce new frameworks to businesses and consumers that generate less garbage
  • Companies handle their own garbage or pay a waste subsidizing fee
  • Garbage collection becomes a community ritual. A bright yellow garbage truck comes twice a day playing classical pipe music and allows citizens to bring down their trash and separate it appropriately on the spot.
  • Volunteers and officials sorting through waste
  • Landfill waste must be placed in blue garbage bags purchased from the government. All other waste can go in any coloured bags
  • Citizens risk fines or public shaming for improperly disposing of waste

The only way to effectively tackle the waste crisis is to keep waste disposal at the top of public consciousness. Each individual and each business needs to be responsible for their own consumption. We at Catoro understand this will not happen overnight. But we are prepared to take the steps needed to shift the mindsets to actually reduce waste. By introducing the idea of upcycling at a local community level, we’re able to create a true circular economy, an economy in which we minimize waste and make the most out of our resources. This type of model will prompt new businesses and new opportunities to emerge, rather than leaving it in the hands of the government, whose solutions simply involve taxing and fines. We truly believe adopting this new mindset will help shift our course and make a real impact on waste issues.