As the federal government moves to ban plastic bags, stir sticks and cutlery, some retailers and restaurant owners are shrugging off the challenge, saying they’d been getting greener anyway because of pressure from customers.

Experts, however, warn there could be supply chain issues and price increases on groceries and takeout food.

On Wednesday, Federal Environment Minister Jonathan Wilkinson announced the government is proposing to ban six plastic items by the end of 2021, including plastic checkout bags, straws, stir sticks, six-pack rings, cutlery and some takeout containers.

For many big companies, including Restaurant Brands International, the parent company of Tim Hortons, the move away from plastics had already begun.

“Because we started early last year, we’ve built the lead time on our supply chain. Other companies might have to rush a bit,” said Duncan Fulton, chief commercial officer at RBI, which also runs Burger King and Popeye’s.

“We’re confident we’ll be able to meet those targets by the end of 2021, and with some of them, we’ll be doing it earlier than that.”

As one example, Fulton pointed to the paper straws Tim Hortons has been introducing into its coffee shops, a changeover that will be complete by early next year. The chain is also testing compostable cutlery made from bamboo.

At Loblaws, stir sticks and straws are being eliminated by year’s end. The country’s largest grocery retailer also says it’s aiming to have customers use reusable bags, rather than replacing plastic with paper, said spokesperson Catherine Thomas.

“We understand the importance, but also the complexity, of reducing single-use plastic waste. Today’s announcement by the government is another step along that journey, and our business is already well down the path to meeting the time lines,” said Thomas.

For some individual restaurants and smaller chains, however, it could take some time to adjust, warns David Lefebvre, vice-president of the industry association Restaurants Canada.

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