Some eateries one step ahead in move to cut plastic

·3 min read

Financial impacts of a phased federal ban on single-use plastic cutlery will depend on the costs of alternatives for some eastern PEI restaurants.

Wanda Ching, owner of Gillis’ Drive-In in Montague, says she has scoped the cost for options such as bamboo cutlery recently and found she would pay 150 per cent what she currently affords. But she is not sure how the market and price of alternatives might change in tandem with the ban.

“It’s really hard to say at this point,” Ms Ching said.

Luke Beck, owner of Kays Wholesaler in Charlottetown, which supplies some Kings County restaurants with eco-friendly materials, echoed Ms Ching. It’s too early to know how prices of alternatives will be affected.

If supply increases, the price could lower but if it stays stagnant and demand for alternatives rises, so could the prices.

Many local restaurants have already shifted to plastic-free cutlery and take-out boxes.

The owner of the Lucky Bean Cafe in Montague, Matt Clendining, says he has always gone out of his way to find environmentally-friendly supplies.

“We all need to keep leading like this,” he said.

Plastic checkout bags, ring carriers, stir sticks; and straws (with some exceptions) will be banned across Canada by 2023. So will exports of these items by 2025.

Sarah Flynn, with The Lobster Shack at Souris Beach Gateway Park, says there may be a cost up-front for some businesses while they adjust. For instance The Lobster Shack may look into installing a dishwasher and buying reusable oyster serving trays, but in the long run, Ms Flynn expects this may save costs.

She hopes the ban will encourage wider availability and variety of biodegradable alternatives. The Lobster Shack already uses compostable plastic cutlery and environmentally-friendly supplies when possible.

“I think it’s a great way for the world to go,” Ms Flynn said.

Caroline Farrell, owner of the The Home Plate Restaurant and Bakery in Murray River, says she already uses paper take-out boxes mostly because she finds them best at maintaining the quality of the food served.

“The food doesn’t sweat as much,” she said, comparing paper boxes to other materials such as Styrofoam. The only major change she will have to make is swapping out her plastic straws.

Ms Farrell said she has stuck with the plastic straws with her customers in mind.

“If it’s going to feel like scratching nails when you take a drink, it shouldn’t be like that should it?” she said, suggesting there may be more effective ways to reduce pollution than banning straws.

Anthony Merante, with Oceana Canada, a group that advocated for the ban says, while some people might not like the feeling of paper straws or bamboo cutlery, he expects it will have a two-fold effect he views as positive. He says people will reconsider the conveniences they really need causing a reduction in harmful, needless waste, and Canada will find alternative, less harmful solutions.

“We will see fewer sea turtles harmed by believing plastic bags are edible jelly fish, fewer whales washing up on shore with their stomachs full of plastics and less plastic will leak from across the country into our waterways and oceans,” he said.

Mr Merante says both Islanders’ quick reaction to the pandemic and the province’s shift to ban plastic checkout bags before the rest of the country demonstrate Islanders are adaptable and ready to change their habits for causes they value.

Tony Walker, associate professor of Dalhousie’s School for Resource and Environmental Studies says this ban alone will have an incremental effect on mitigating pollution harmful to ocean ecosystems but a positive effect nonetheless.

“You’ve got to make positive steps and this is just one of those steps toward a zero plastic waste future. If you don’t take tiny steps now, we won’t see progress in the future.”

Rachel Collier, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Eastern Graphic

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