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1-12 pp.


Quick, convenient cups of coffee from the seemingly infinite number of outlets might fuel a nation(’s workers) but once the liquid has been consmed little can be done with the supposedly disposable paper, fibre or styrofoam cups. Even though the cups cannot be recycled they do not necessarily find their way into the trash – at least not immediately. The coffee’s convenience and the concomitant (alternative) disposal methods of consumers have produced a discourse in litter by virtue of the places and positionings – that is, the practices – through which what I will call “discursive littering” occurs. Once the liquid has been consumed, many coffee drinkers place the disposable cups in an equally convenient and often indoor location, especially the ubiquitous Tim Hortons variety (at least in the Canadian context). However, this practice often differs from the traditional, stereotypical conception of littering as an act of callous carelessness, or what I will call “common littering.” Therefore, this essay, the photographs it contains, the comments of some litterers, along with the readings available to observers, will not be a direct critique of contemporary consumerism, the cultural status of Tim Hortons – the dominant brand – or the ethics of non-recyclable yet supposedly disposable materials. Instead I want to conceptualize the method through which the litter appears as a (form of) language which itself serves as a critique, whether one is intended or not, of contemporary consumerism through both its manifest and its latent meanings.

Original Publication Citation

Ouellette, M. A. (2007). You’ve Always Got Time: (Disposable) Coffee Cup Litter as Discursive Regime(s). Verb, 5(1), 1-12.