Industry Reacts to Proposed Plastics Ban

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TORONTO — A proposed ban on single-use plastics is drawing a mixed reaction from members of the foodservice industry and other business groups.

Tony Elenis, president and CEO of the Ontario Restaurant Hotel & Motel Association (ORHMA), says many businesses have already shown leadership in formulating a phase-out plan. He added the association would like to see fairness and support from the federal government, which announced it would aim to ban harmful single-use plastics as early as 2021.

“A broad phase-out plan that makes economic sense is something we would be looking for from government, as well as support to bring replaceable products within the supply chain that are both efficient and cost effective,” says Elenis. “The ORHMA and our membership are advocating to work together on an equal playing field with the single-use-packaging domain. We need to ensure the ban is applied fairly to all sectors.”

His comments follow an announcement from Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Monday stating the Liberals will aim to ban plastic bags, straws, cutlery, plates and stir sticks.

While the government plans to work with all provinces and territories to introduce new standards and targets for companies that manufacture or sell plastic products, it’s still unclear how the new regulations would apply to the foodservice industry and just what alternatives will exist for operators.

The Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB) released a statement Monday, indicating a move towards a full ban could hurt small businesses.

“Small-business owners support measures that seek to protect the environment, but they want to be part of the conversation,” says Dan Kelly, president, CFIB. “It would be irresponsible to put such a sweeping measure into place without fully studying the possible impacts on Canada’s small businesses first. There’s no reason why sound environmental policy and economic development can’t go hand-in-hand.”

Mike Hancock, COO at Tim Hortons, welcomed the move, citing investments the company has made — including single-use paper cups, paper straws and strawless lids.

“We all have a responsibility to contribute to a clean environment in Canada and Tim Hortons has already started to implement substantive initiatives that Canadians can be proud of,” says Hancock. “We’ll work closely with our government and industry partners to implement this elimination of single-use plastics — and will also discuss with them our other environmental initiatives including our 10-year campaign to change consumer perceptions in favour of using reusable cups for hot and cold beverages at restaurants.”

Restaurants owned by Recipe Unlimited — Harvey’s, Swiss Chalet, the Keg and 13 others — Subway Canada, Starbucks, A&W Canada and IKEA have already taken steps to eliminate plastic-straw use and some have also made plans to redesign their packaging. Booster Juice recently announced it would transition to compostable, plant-based straws by the end of the month.

“Packaging can vary in costs and complexity,” says Elenis. “We support opportunities with the lowest-possible economic and environmental cost. The federal government timeline for banning single-use plastics by 2021 is ambitious and we anticipate manufacturers of such plastics to work with stakeholders on alternate packaging options.”

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