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The Latest on Canada’s Ban on Single-Use Plastics: Timelines and Alternatives for Restaurant Operators

In June of this year, the Government of Canada published the Single-use Plastics Prohibition Regulations. The Regulations prohibit the manufacture, import, and sale of the following categories of single-use plastics that pose a threat to the environment and are commonly used by foodservice businesses:

  • Cutlery (includes knives, forks, spoons, sporks, and chopsticks);
  • Foodservice ware designed for serving or transporting food or beverage that is ready to be consumed and
    • is a clamshell container, lidded container, box, cup, plate or bowl; and
    • contains expanded or extruded polystyrene foam, polyvinyl chloride, carbon black or an oxo-degradable plastic.
  • Stir sticks designed to stir or mix beverages, or to prevent a beverage from spilling from the lid of its container
  • Straws includes straight drinking straws and flexible straws, which have a corrugated section that allows the straw to bend, packaged with beverage containers (i.e. juice boxes and pouches)
  • Checkout bags
  • Ring carriers flexible and designed to surround beverage containers in order to carry them together

While the ban on manufacturing and importing of these single-use plastics will come into effect on December 20, 2022 (barring exceptions in specific cases), the Canadian government is giving businesses time to deplete their existing stock of these items and their sale will be prohibited as of December 2023. For further details on timelines, please consult the government’s Fact Sheet on these regulations.

As a restaurant operator, if you are involved in the import, export or sale of these items, you must inform your suppliers and customers of these prohibitions and plan to cease the import, export and sale according to the prohibition dates.

Our organization and our members acknowledge that consumers want their dining experiences to be as environmentally sustainable as possible, but also want convenience. Single-use items pose a unique challenge for foodservice operators, as Canadians are increasingly turning to delivery and takeout. Off-premise dining still accounts for most foodservice sales nationwide and is growing.

Planning for Alternatives

Reducing plastics by replacing them with non-plastic equivalents may be an option for certain essential products. In the case of single-use plastic cutlery, stir sticks and straws, options exist that are made from a range of non-plastic materials, such as wood, paper and moulded pulp fibre. Single-use plastic foodservice ware made from problematic plastics could be replaced by more recyclable alternatives, such as containers made from polyethylene terephthalate (PET) or polypropylene. For example, Yum! Brands removed consumer-facing packaging made from extruded polystyrene foam (XPS) and expanded polystyrene (EPS) globally, across all its KFC, Pizza Hut and Taco Bell locations. In 2019, Starbucks and Tim Hortons introduced “strawless” lids for cold drinks, allowing customers to consume cold drinks without a straw. Other restaurants, like A&W, made the switch from plastic straws to paper straws in 2019. Red Lobster is sourcing and testing a variety of plastic straw replacements, one of them being red licorice.

Single-use plastic checkout bags, cutlery and straws have reusable substitutes also made of plastic that are not subject to the Regulations. Performance criteria differentiate between single-use and reusable items for these product categories. Tests to determine whether a product meets the criteria for single-use must be conducted by an accredited laboratory.

Please see the chart below for further guidance specific to each single-use plastic subject to the Regulations.

Restaurants Canada will continue to keep members well-informed on these new regulations and their enforcement to ensure a smooth transition. We will also remain steadfast in our call for a “do no harm” approach to any new government policies impacting foodservice operations as our members continue to focus on survival and recovery from the continued impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.

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