Canada & the saga of plastics

The news broke recently around Canada finally taking a firm conclusive stand to ban single-use plastics with an aim to eliminate the said plastic completely by the end of 2021.

This was already known to become an industry standard in the coming years, but with the onslaught of COVID and it’s indirect impact on the food, restaurant and packaging industry (and tangential industries such as face-masks, sanitizer and cleaning products), is Canada prepared to battle the fight against the all-pervasive plastic?

More specifically, what is banned?

A list of six items appears to be banned, which includes plastic grocery bags, stir sticks, six-pack rings, utensils, straws and some food-ware (take out containers) made of hard-to-recycle plastics.

Who does it impact and how?

  • Restaurants, Eateries, Meal-kit providers who rely on packaging food items for takeout or delivery
  • Boutique stores, grocery shops, small and large departmental stores, novelty shops and more

What about small business owners?

Small businesses in particular,

  • already have the humongous task of breaking even, paying rent, managing cashflow and running their dwindling businesses in this lack-luster covid environ.
  • would find it cost-prohibitive (expensive) to switch to alternatives to single-use plastics

In the view of the above,

What incentives and support can we as governments and citizens offer these small restaurants and stores?

What is happening on the consumer front?

Consumers, on the other hand, are becoming more conscious and aware of their impact on environment, and are willing to spend more to find those alternatives. Consumers also want to shop local and support their favourite stores to get them through these trying times of a pandemic.

We see this trend in buyer behaviour, not only for eco-products, but also for funds and investments. Sustainable investing or ESG investing is exploding in Canada (15 new ESG products launched in 2020 alone, with a total of 38 ETFs focused on impact investing to choose from). More on this in a later post :)

How can I as a consumer do my bit?

  1. Support small local restaurants and businesses, especially the ones affected by the pandemic.
  2. Frequent restaurants who are or are aiming to be green through reduced food and water wastage, minimal packing and chemical use and limited transportation emissions.
  3. Always ask for minimal packaging and carry your own grocery bags.

I’m a small business owner, restaurant or store owner, and here’s what I can do —

  1. Take small steps in finding the right suppliers for all your alternative-plastic needs — from polyethylene bags to take-out containers to plastic cutlery, cups and more.
  2. Understand where your biggest store-waste lies. Identify ways to eliminate it, minimize it or find alternate uses for it (recycling, composting manure etc.).
  3. Measure your carbon footprint — electricity & water-usage, transportation emission, food preparation etc. and find ways to optimize/reduce it.

There are a number of organizations and programs out there who can help you be more eco-conscious and sustainable —

  1. LEAF is a Canadian food industry certification entity who has increased awareness of ‘green’ restaurants in Canada.
  2. OceanWise is an ocean conservation program that empowers consumers and businesses to choose sustainable seafood options that support healthy oceans.
  3. Canadian Roundtable for Sustainable Beef (CRSB) is an organization dedicated to advancing sustainability in Canadian beef production.
  4. Food Secure Canada is a pan-Canadian alliance of organizations and individuals working together to advance food security and food sovereignty.

As they say,

Regulation breeds innovation

Now let’s make it happen!

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