The world's first major move against takeaway coffee cups - which are now a major part of Britain's catering business and roadside litter - has come from the city of Toronto. It has, however, caused a storm among environmentalists, who find it illogical.
The city authorities have proposed a ban on paper coffee cups with plastic lids in favour of styrofoam cups, which suit the city's recycling programme better.
In a quite bizarre comment, the authorities have said that a polystyrene foam cup with a plastic lid is considered preferable, because it is all made up of petrochemicals, and can therefore be put in for recycling as one unit.
Paper cups, which the entire beverage industry considers an ecologically better bet, cannot be put in for recycling with the plastic lid attached, and so Toronto's environmentalists have said that they will ban the paper cup with plastic lid by the end of next year, unless the industry can come up with a paper lid.
Failure to comply will mean a $100-$400 fine per cup for vendors.
Toronto is also looking for a ban on plastic bags, and has suggested that retailers must offer a 10-cent rebate for customers who bring their own reusable bags.
The beverage industry's major campaigner against the plans is the giant Canadian coffee retailer Tim Hortons, which uses paper cups and has a world-famous annual contest called 'roll up the rim', in which the top of a paper takeaway cup can be rolled over in the hope of revealing a winning number, with cars as top prizes.
A Tim Horton's executive has reportedly said that the company will 'absolutely not' redesign its packaging to meet Toronto's plans.
The vice-president of the Canadian Restaurant and Foodservices Association has stepped into the row, asking why the city could not simply educate consumers to take the plastic lid off before recycling their coffee cups !
In Britain, there already exists a Paper Cup Recycling group, which is chaired by Barry Read of the Fibre Technology Association and includes several cup makers, paper mills, and Kenco from the beverage trade.
The group has already done a lot of work in getting paper mills to simply consider the idea of using recycled fibres from paper cups/ As all mills use different processing techniques, this itself is regarded as quite an achievement.
The group is also hoped to come up with the first quantification of the use of takeaway cups in the UK.
By Ian Boughton .