Canada’s plastic ban and its effect on restaurant takeout

Canada’s ban on single-use plastics, covering plastic bags, cutlery, foodservice ware, stir sticks, and straws took effect on December 20. It comes as part of Environment and Climate Change Canada’s effort to achieve zero waste by 2030. Since third-party takeout and delivery orders are up 63 per cent from pre-pandemic days, finding viable alternatives is crucial for many restaurants.

While businesses are permitted to use up their existing stock for these items, restaurateurs using plastic items for their takeout and delivery will need to make a change. Companies like Tim Hortons have been testing out alternatives like recyclable lids, compostable cutlery, and the soon-to-be-introduced sandwich wrappers.

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Sourcing affordable (and available) alternatives could pose a challenge for some restaurateurs. While there are options out there, switching could cost up to 125 per cent more for some items, says Kelly Higginson, chief operating officer of Restaurants Canada. “Restaurateurs can choose from a wide variety of new options made from materials including bamboo, oats, corn, rice, and paper,” she says. “It’s just a matter of how much and getting your hands on it.”

The Government of Canada offers tips for restaurants to help with the transition, cut costs and extend their inventory, suggesting that restaurants confirm whether off-premise diners even need cutlery before automatically including it with their order. Similarly, asking if customers need straws, or switching to “strawless” beverage lids may be viable options for restaurants.  

Some restaurants have concerns about the switch adding supply chain delays, as all outlets scramble to find alternatives, but as the ban continues to roll out, restaurateurs will need to settle on viable options that serve their customers and meet their needs.