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Mugsharing in Vancouver returns to combat increasing use of disposable cups

Updated: Dec 12, 2021

Originally posted by CityNews

By Ria Renouf and Nikitha Martins

Some local businesses are turning to a mugsharing program as Vancouver gets ready to implement a $0.25 charge each time you use a disposable cup.

Similar to a carshare, mugshare’s premise is simple: Go to one of their partner restaurants, pay a $5.00 deposit, and get your drink in a mug.

If you want to return the mug, you go back to any partner restaurant and get your $5.00 back.

“So they don’t have to remember their own mug. They don’t have to wash it. You don’t have to deal with any of those complicated pieces,” Melanie Chanona, mugshare’s Co-Founder and Director, told CityNews.

So far, mugshare has partnered with 13 businesses in Vancouver like Giovane Caffè, select JJ Bean locations, Chickpea on Main Street, Continental Coffee House on Main Street, and Commercial Drive.

Chanona says they are open to expanding beyond Vancouver.

“But we’ll we’ll see where it goes,” she said.

The only other location outside of Vancouver is Tapas Bar at Big White Ski Resort near Kelowna.

Mark Briand is an operations manager at Kitchen Table Restaurants — one of mugshare’s partners. He explains, “It was a no brainer” to partner with the company despite potential COVID-19 concerns.

Briand acknowledges concerns about COVID-19 transmission through mugs, but says “they are exactly the same as a dine-in cup.”

“We have industrial dishwashers that we put it through. There really is no difference,” he said.

Chanona expands on their sanitation policies, adding, “It’s no different than using, say, a fork or a cup at a restaurant. They’re sanitized after every use.”

Isolina Zazzara-Yu is the director of operations at mugshare, and says this return to the initiative focuses on educating people to know “it’s safe to use reusables,” especially during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Since the pandemic started, there has been an increase in single-use cup use.

“We’ve seen a lot of people revert back to using single-use. And we’ve seen a lot of decline in reusables,” she said.

Briand agrees, adding, “The past couple of years, we’ve seen a huge spike in takeout.”

mugshare will be aligning with B.C.’s bylaws on single-use cups.

Beginning Jan. 1, businesses in Vancouver will have to share with the city how many disposable cups they give out. However, they are exempt if they are part of a mugsharing program.

Chanona says she is excited to have this sustainable option, especially one “that doesn’t put all the burden on the individual to try to address this single-use crisis.”

Chanona and her colleague Zazzara-yu tell CityNews they feel like part of a greater picture as they transition to a circular economy.

“We know we’re not trying to save the world with Mugshare, but we just want to do this one small part, and being part of that systems change and seeing this movement grow is really exciting and inspiring,” Chanona said.

“Especially with the recent events, we’ve seen a lot of depressing and challenging things come up and affect us. And it’s really nice to be able to put our energy into something that’s not solving everything, but it’s just like, a little piece. And it’s really nice to kind of see it happening and see us make a difference,” added Zazzara-Yu.

In addition to the positive climate impacts, using the glossy black cup and teal lid can also bring people together through shared interests and ideals.

They say, “It’s like when you’re in a small town and you drive by somebody to do the little two-finger wave. It’s kind of like that. You see someone with a mugshare mug, and you’re like, ‘Oh, hey!’

“I’d say you’ve got nothing to lose. The only thing you’re going to do is make a better impact on the environment, be a part of a community.”

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