Bimbo Canada announced on Monday that all its bread products will only use compostable clips by June 2022, starting at its commercial bakery in New Brunswick.

Bread clips or tags come in the form of little, hard plastic closures that are primarily used to keep plastic bags closed. They’re most often found in the form of polystyrene, a plastic often used in packaging that is difficult to recycle.

While it seems like a small change, Nicolas Hamel, president of KLR Systems Inc., told CTV National News that these plastic bread tags can add up.

“One thousand, five-hundred kilograms every day we are throwing in the landfill,” he said.

KLR Systems is manufacturing the recycled cardboard compostable tags that Bimbo Canada will now be using to fasten their bread bags. Well-known brands under the Bimbo Canada umbrella include Dempster’s, Villagio and POM.

Bimbo Canada is one of Canada’s largest bakeries, producing and distributing more than 1,000 products across 18 brands, with more than 4,200 employees across the country.

They say the cardboard bread tags are made from 100 per cent recycled cardboard and are compostable in municipal systems across Canada.

Hamel has been working on an alternative to plastic bread tags for years. His Quebec-based company produces the regular plastic clips, but he worried about the environmental impact of the truckloads of hard-to-recycle polysterene tags.

“We developed this product knowing some small plastics, like bread tags, cannot always be recycled,” Audrey Gagnon, general manager of KLR Systems, said in a statement on Monday. 

This move is also in line with the federal government’s announcement to ban certain single-use plastic items sometime in 2022.

According to Environment and Climate Change Canada, Canadians discard three million tonnes of plastic waste each year, and only nine per cent of it is recycled.

A study conducted by Deloitte and Cheminfo Services Inc. shows that the majority of plastics introduced to the Canadian market and discarded as waste in 2016 were actually packaging materials. This included plastic bags, bottles and other items commonly used in the food and beverage sector.

While bread clips aren’t mentioned in the study, these products globally remain very high in demand. They are anticipated to be valued at US$4.8 billion in 2022 and are forecast to have an annual growth rate of 6 per cent – to be valued at US$8.5 billion from 2022 to 2032.

Many retail and food stores in Canada have already started to shift from offering plastic checkout bags to recyclable alternatives.

Replacing polystyrene with a more sustainable product is no small feat.

Hamel expects manufacturing plastic tags for things like milk bags or produce that get wet or damp will continue, despite the advent of the cardboard tags for bread.

“We keep searching for better material as stiff as plastic, but still compostable,” he said.

Retail giants like Sobeys Inc., Foodland and FreshCo transitioned to reusable and paper bags in early 2021, with most of their banner stores across the country eliminating plastic bags altogether in 2022.

“It’s important we lead change and be responsible stewards of the environment and the communities that we live and work in, by delivering results,” said Joe McCarthy, president of Bimbo Canada, in a release.

“All changes, big or small, make an impact.”

By making changes to plastic waste management, it’s possible to reduce 1.8 million tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions per year, the government has said. 

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