Sustainable MRU

Green Cup, Social Enterprise Pioneered by 2 MRU Students, Seeks to Reduce Coffee Cup Waste


Green Cup – Inspire. Innovate. Initiate.

In Canada alone, 1.6 billion disposable coffee cups are thrown in the trash each year. These cups, constructed from paper and coated on the inside with a thin layer of plastic, will never decompose completely. The paper will break down, but the plastic on the inside, a form of polystyrene, which you may know as Styrofoam, will sit in a landfill forever.

Fed up with the growing problem of coffee cup waste, Mount Royal student Austin Lang began developing a solution. Initially, he tried repurposing existing waste in the hopes of curtailing the amount of coffee cups that end up in landfills. In his garage, he tried shredding, boiling, and gluing cups to make insulation. After several failed attempts, he turned to scientists and engineers for help. The solution they came to was a single-use container, which managed only to increase the lifespan of the coffee cups by one cycle. Austin was understandably dissatisfied. Realizing that the problem could not be solved this way, his focus changed. Instead of reacting to the problem, he was going to prevent it in the first place. With this realization, Green Cup was born.

Teaming up with fellow MRU student Emily Bartlett, the two set to work. Since then, Green Cup has focused on three different ideas. The first piece of the project involves providing compostable coffee cups to coffee shops for free. Funded by ad-space on the cups, this idea provides a way to easily eliminate non-recyclable coffee cup waste. The second piece of the project is collecting and composting the coffee cups. Collaborating with Waste Management at Mount Royal, they plan to provide designated containers for compostable coffee cups (not just from Green Cup, but ones from Good Earth as well) and student members of Enactus at MRU will collect and dispose of the cups accordingly. The final piece of the project is creating awareness. Growing public knowledge of coffee cup waste will be the biggest part of solving the problem.

Green Cup is a significant step towards global sustainability, and Austin and Emily are working hard to make it a success. However, they’re looking for help. If you’re interested in participating in Green Cup, through sponsorship, volunteering or if you have some ideas, you can contact them at:



Additionally, the two have started an online petition in hopes of getting Tim Hortons to start using compostable coffee cups. You can lend your support at:


Extra resources

The official Green Cup website:

Mount Royal student-paper interview with Austin:

Video investigating Starbucks and Tim Hortons recycling practices:

Short article about disposable coffee cups in Calgary:

Information about environmental effects of polystyrene:

Comparison of the rate at which various materials biodegrade:

By Michael Walsh, first-year MRU student

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