The federal government’s plan to ban single-use plastic is another blow to central Alberta’s economy, says the Red Deer & District Chamber of Commerce.
Products targeted could include drinking straws, water bottles, plastic bags, cutlery, stir sticks and fast food containers. Companies that produce plastics or use them in packaging will also be responsible for the collection and recycling of the waste.
Reg Warkentin, the chamber’s policy and advocacy manager, said local petrochemical company Nova Chemicals has made a lot of technological advancements in the evolution of plastics.
“They’re using less and less plastic, but making it stronger. They’re using technologies to make it break down faster. They’re doing all sorts of incredible things,” Warkentin said.
“Our position is (the ban) is quite a huge concern, considering the importance of the petrochemical sector to central Alberta’s economy. I think it’s a very modest industry, and I think a lot of people don’t really appreciate how much they put into this community through service and donations.
“Nova Chemicals was the sustainability sponsor of the Canada Winter Games, and from what I’ve heard, it was the most sustainable Canada Winter Games of all time.”
Warkentin said while he appreciates the intent to get plastic out of landfills, the government’s plan won’t work and will cause problems for other local businesses, such as grocery stores and coffee shops.
“I think plastic, if used responsibly and recycled, and disposed of responsibly, it’s a fantastic invention. We moved away from paper bags for a reason. We were worried about chopping all our trees down,” Warkentin said.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who announced the ban on Monday, said the specifics still need to be worked out.
“A real solution needs to be nationwide — we need to cover all of Canada with this decision — and that’s why the federal government is moving forward on a science-based approach to establishing which harmful single-use plastics we will be eliminating as of 2021,” Trudeau said.
Less than 10 per cent of plastic used in Canada gets recycled, and without any change in habits, Canadians will be throwing out $11 billion worth of plastic products by 2030, according to the government.
Charlie Bredo, Troubled Monk brewery co-founder, said he is still waiting for more details from government. He doesn’t know if he’ll have to find another option for the plastic six-pack beer rings currently used, which are made of recycled material.
“The industry is pretty innovative. I’ve seen cardboard ones at shows, which have their issues because you can’t get them wet. But I’m sure they’d come up with something if we couldn’t use these any more,” said Bredo about the six-pack rings.
“We have to be stewards of the Earth. But typically, these things cost more and get passed on to the consumer. The business can eat some of it, and we do. But we can only eat so much of it before we have to pass the costs on.”
He said the deadline to ban single-use products is quite short.
“It’s sounds like a long time from a consumer’s point of view, but from a business perspective, that’s not that long because you have find an alternative. Is the alternative affordable? Can I source the alternative? This all takes time,” Bredo said.
Teresa Harrison, Freshii Southpointe franchise owner, said she was also surprised how quickly the single-use plastic ban could be in place.
She said Freshii containers and utensils either come from recycled material, are recyclable, or are compostable, except for straws.
Last year, during a campaign that reduced the price of a smoothie if people skipped the straw, some people still refused to go without a straw.
“People still instinctively grab straws,” she said.
Harrison said paper straws would still impact the environment by killing trees, so the right answer is really to drink without a straw, but smoothies are thick.
Freshii customer Darin Cloutier, of Blackfalds, said he is all for products that degrade quickly.
“We travelled to Hawaii and there’s garbage from Japan on the beaches, floating right across the ocean,” Cloutier said.
He said stubble and hay in farmers’ fields could be used to develop microfiber for degradable products, so oceans aren’t filled with garbage.
Customer Shelia Cloutier said her family always tries to use reusable shopping bags, water bottles and coffee mugs. Reducing garbage is important and more should be done as a nation, she said.
“There’s always going to be somebody who is going to be unhappy about something no matter which side of the board you’re looking at. Some people have to adjust their lives a little bit.
“It’s not that big a deal, I think,” Cloutier said.
— With files from The Canadian Press