Some Red Deer restaurants will look into a plastic cutlery alternative before the end of 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward

Businesses suck up ban on plastics

The federal government’s decision to ban single-use plastics is getting a luke warm response from Red Deer businesses.

Environment Minister Jonathan Wilkinson recently announced six single-use plastic items that aren’t easily recycled and already have more environmentally friendly alternatives will be the first to go under Canada’s new restrictions on plastics.

That means it’s the end of plastic straws, stir sticks, carry-out bags, cutlery, polystyrene takeout containers and six-pack rings for cans and bottles.

The proposed ban still has to go through the government’s regulatory process, but Wilkinson said the goal is to have it in place by the end of 2021.

The ban is the right choice and won’t affect at least two Red Deer restaurants: The Granary Kitchen in the south end and Tribe in the city’s downtown.

Both Red Deer restaurants have already switched to paper straws and biodegradable takeout containers. The only switch left is an alternative to single-use plastic cutlery.

Tribe manager Brandon Bouchard said the decision by the government is a good start, but there’s a lot more that needs to be done for the environment.

“Plastic cutlery is the only item on that list that remains and we only hand out cutlery if it’s requested,” he said.

“I don’t think this is really going to have an impact on our business. If the people want our food, they are not going to be concerned about how they’re getting it from the box onto their plates,” said Bouchard.

Patrick Malkin, The Granary Kitchen’s co-owner, supports the government’s decision.

His one concern is whether the changes will increase costs in the restaurant industry, which already has slim margins.

“The paper straws we use cost more than plastic straws, but it’s a sacrifice we made because we are concerned about waste,” Malkin said.

“For some restaurants (who would be switching over now), the cost would be more than that.”

Questioning the timing of the move by the government, Malkin said, “for some restaurants, this could literally be the straw that broke the camel’s back” referring to the stress some businesses are already feeling due to the ongoing pandemic.

“Any extra cost. That’s my greatest fear, is that some restaurants might close, and it’ll put stress on the economy.”

“I think it’s the right choice to make, but the timing is poor.”

Kevin Wood, co-owner at Drummond Brewing Company, said Trudeau government hasn’t thought this through and isn’t giving businesses enough time to transition.

Wood said the six-pack rings nowadays are photo degradable.

“So they break down in the light,” he said.

For breweries such as Drummond, options would include using a box board, which Wood says is about six times more costly than the six-pack plastic ring.

The other option is to switch to a snap-top can holder – a hard plastic packaging handle – which can be returned to the brewery for reuse.

“They’re reusable, but the odds of getting them back to the brewery are slim – we estimate about 10 per cent, and they’re about 10 times the amount of plastic than a regular ring.”

“One factor our Trudeau government did not think about is canning lines and all major equipment that breweries have is based on the ring,” he said, adding the plastic rings are made in house.

Wood said to replace the rings, brewery owners will have to change machinery, and not all breweries can afford to do that.

“There has to be some time longer than what’s being proposed to make the switch.”

With files from The Canadian Press

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