Returning to Reusables

Returning to Reusables
Dianne Eclar

We spoke to café owners in Canada who made the unpopular decision to keep accepting reusable cups amid the global pandemic. Contrary to public opinion, reusables have been declared safe to use in an official statement signed by over 100 scientists, academics, and doctors from 19 countries, as reported by sources like The Guardian, Greenpeace, and Daily Coffee News. Still the plastic industry continues to exploit the crisis as retailers and consumers navigate the uncertainties brought on by COVID-19. In this blog post, we share the best practices of cafés in Alberta, Ontario, and Québec, and how other coffee shops can safely start accepting reusable cups again.

In Eight Ounce's hometown of Calgary, Good Trade co-founder Brandon Waardenburg illustrates how they manage travel mugs while keeping their customers and own staff safe at their social enterprise café.

Customer at Till
When a customer brings their own mug, we enter the drink into the system with a note describing the customer cup.

Customer Sets Mug Down
We instruct the customer that the barista will call them to the bar when their drink is ready to be made. 

Barista Pours Espresso
The barista then asks the customer to place their reusable mug/cup on the "Reusable Mug Zone" marker and hold onto their lid.

Barista Pours Milk
The barista pours the drink into the mug/cup without touching it.

Customer Replaces Lid
The customer replaces their own lid and takes their drink.
Customer is Happy
The barista then sanitizes the Reusable Mug Zone.

Over in Toronto, Mira and Eddie opened their package-free shop, Poured Coffee, back in October 2020 when most establishments had reverted to single-use plastics. Mira and Eddie share their thoughts on the risk they took:
The global pandemic just added fuel to the fire because we saw how wasteful and disposable everything was becoming, even more so than before. At our store, you have five options as a consumer.
Take It To Stay
1. Take it to stay.

Bring Your Own Cup
2. Bring your own.

Cup on Deposit
3. Cup on deposit.

Ugly Mug Library
4. Take a mug, leave a mug. (We call this our ugly mug library. People from the neighbourhood donate their ugly mugs, we wash/sanitize, and customers who come in without a reusable are free to take a mug to go, for free.)

Buy a Reusable Cup
5. Buy a reusable, pay for your first drink, and your next couple are on us! This helps those who aren't in the mindset of bringing their own reusable to get into the habit of it.


Montréal-based Dispatch Coffee continues to accept reusable mugs and offers Huskee cups for sale in their cafés. Their social media manager, Anna-Marie Trudel, highlights how they ensure a safe space for their team and community:

  • In complying with provincial regulations, all team members and guests must wear masks
  • We ask that you please do not enter our café if you are sick
  • Please keep a reasonable distance (6 feet) between other customers in the line
  • Limited number of customers are permitted in the café

Dispatch Coffee - Pour
We are able to offer a contactless pour if someone is uncomfortable with their cup being touched (just ask!)

Dispatch Coffee - Latte
We wash our hands and sanitize in between customers with reusable mugs that we touch.

Dispatch Coffee - Serve
We encourage the use of reusable mugs!


As new COVID-19 restrictions are being implemented or extended across Canada, we urge everyone to stay safe and take care of each other by listening to the advice of public health officials. If you are able, support your local cafés and restaurants by getting takeout or buying gift cards. If you're bringing a reusable cup for your coffee to go, remember to wash it thoroughly. Let's continue caring for ourselves, our community, and the environment.

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