Hate Vancouver's new disposable cup fee? This 'mug sharing' program is a great alternative

Originally posted by the Vancouver Is Awesome


By Lindsay William-Ross





An accessible barrier-free program available at several popular Vancouver restaurants and cafes.

A new fee aimed at discouraging people in Vancouver from ordering take-out drinks in disposable cups went into effect on Jan. 1, 2022, and for many it has been a source of great frustration.


Implemented during a pandemic, while most businesses continue to have their reusable cup programs on pause, the fee puts 25 cents per cup right back into the business' coffers, an offset that doesn't seem to be furthering the cause of sustainability.


For those who enjoy grabbing a cup of coffee or tea on the go, however, the return of a Vancouver operation that lets customers "rent" or "share" usage of a returnable reusable cup from several businesses city-wide, could be a welcome solution to the cup fee conundrum - and sustainability.


Mugshare, which began in 2016 when a group of UBC students banded together to address their collective rampant disposable cup consumption, has been reactivated, and the program is taking stride at popular cafes around Vancouver.


The way Mugshare works is really simple: You purchase a reusable Mugshare-branded cup for a $5 deposit at a participating café. Enjoy your drink on the spot, or take it with you. You can hang onto it and exchange it for a clean one when you purchase another beverage at the same place or another participating business. Or, you can turn in your Mugshare cup and get your $5 deposit back.


If you lose your mug, that's okay - you just won't get your $5 back. Mugshare encourages participants to return their mugs, however, so that other people can make use of the inventory. Damaged mugs can't be returned, but be sure to still drop the cup off so that Mugshare can see to it the cup is properly recycled. And if you're worried about cleanliness, fear not: all Mugshare mugs are treated like regular dishware, that is to say they are cleaned and sanitized between each use.


Currently, there are 13 Vancouver businesses taking part at a combined 17 restaurant and cafe locations, including popular spots like Cartems Donuts, Di Beppe, and Dalina. An additional cafe in Kelowna is part of the Mugshare program, too. The full list of locations and a map are offered online for easy reference.


I gave Mugshare a try recently, picking up my cup and an Americano to go from Continental Coffee on Commercial Drive. Just down the block at Rosemary Rocksalt I was able to easily hand in my cup and get a fresh cup of tea in a clean Mugshare cup to go with my rainbow bagel. I've still got my cup and will be swapping it in soon at another Vancouver cafe. It was really easy to take part in the program; there are signs at the counter that promote the program.


Mughsare is also helping Vancouver's most vulnerable residents by making what they call "Community Mugs" available at every partner location. Those cups are available by request to anyone for whom the $5 is a barrier to participating in the program. The Mugshare team is committed to ensuring the program is accessible to everyone, which is also why they did not base the program in a smartphone app.