Restaurant businesses across Canada are reacting to the single-use plastics ban, which began late in December 2022.

The federal ban impacts six types of common single-use items typically used in the service and takeout industries. While many businesses are welcoming the shift, there is a concern that the ban will affect smaller businesses disproportionately, and that consumers may not dispose of sustainable alternatives properly.

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After a year-long delay, the first phase of the federal law began on Dec. 20. The initial phase prohibits the manufacturing and import-for-sale of a range of single-use plastics, including: checkout bags like the ones used in grocery stores; cutlery such as forks, knives and chopsticks; takeout containers made partially or fully from plastic, including styrofoam, carbon black and oxo-degradable plastic; stir sticks; and drinking straws, except to accommodate people who need them. Plastic ring carriers will be banned for manufacture and import-for-sale in June 2023.

December 2023 will see a ban on the sale of all these products, except for ring carriers, which will be banned for sale in June 2024, and in December 2025 a ban on the manufacture, import and export for sale of all these products will come into effect.

That means single-use plastics won’t be completely gone from restaurants, cafes and bars just yet, as many will still be using up their stock. But many companies have already started the transition so they’re prepared once they can no longer buy these products. […]

While the new items are generally more expensive, Bognar is optimistic that as they become more common the prices will drop. Even the supply chain problems are starting to ease, he added.

However, he acknowledged it’s easier for large restaurant groups like Service Inspired Restaurants to source and test new products, while independent restaurants are at a disadvantage.

International companies have a head start on the transition, said Higginson, as some countries and jurisdictions have already made a similar switch.

In the coming months and years, Higginson is hoping for more consistency between levels of government; while the law is federal, there are often different rules on a local level about what is accepted as recyclable, for example.

She also wants to see more education from the government on how consumers should dispose of these items properly.

“That’s been a frustration of our members,” she said.

“They’re being forced to buy these higher-cost items and struggle with some supply chain issues, but then, you know, the consumer isn’t recycling them properly, or isn’t composting them properly.”

Rosa Saba, The Canadian Press, Jan 2, 2023

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