Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was in Quebec on Monday to announce ambitious plans to ban single-use plastics by 2021. The announcement was short on details, but employees at one Montreal grocery store said they think the ban should extend to businesses like theirs.
“This is something that has to happen,” said Sam Madimenos, manager of Supermarché P.A. on Parc Avenue. “I hope all countries go on board. This has been something that’s been going on in Europe a while now. It’s about time Canada got on board, and I think it’s a good thing.”
Nearly every aisle at his store is lined with products packed in plastic, but Madimenos said P.A. has begun transitioning away from plastic. The store is using more and more packaging made of corn and other biodegradable materials to package its meat and vegetables.
“We are so much into supporting the ban on plastic that we started a project 23 months ago in our organic store and this week, we started in our store in Laval,” Madimenos explained.
The non-plastic packaging is more expensive. Madimenos said a compostable meat tray costs about 10 cents per unit, whereas traditional styrofoam costs about one cent. The new corn-based packaging costs about four cents. The higher cost of packaging will be reflected on the customer, but Madimenos said he didn’t think people would mind. He pointed to how reusable plastic bags have cost 10 cents each since single-use bags were banned in Montreal in 2018.
“In the beginning, people were complaining, but right now, I don’t see anyone complaining about paying that extra five or 10 cents,” he said.
Trudeau said the government will decide which plastic products to ban based on science.
“Our approach including determining which products fall under the ban will be grounded in scientific evidence,” Trudeau told reporters at a press conference at Mont St-Hilaire south of Montreal.
Environmentalist Karel Menard of the Front commun québécois pour une gestion écologique des déchets applauded the announcement.
“One day, we won’t have a choice but to have less plastic,” Menard told Global News. “In 2050, there will be as much plastic in the ocean as fish. If you think about it, it’s dramatic.”
Trudeau wants companies packaging products in plastic to be responsible for their waste.
“Whether we’re talking about plastic bottles or cellphones, it’ll be up to businesses to take responsibility for the plastics they’re manufacturing and pumping out in the world,” he said.
If food manufacturers are forced to ditch plastic, Madimenos believes prices will go up.
“Our suppliers, whatever they’re going to be bringing us, if they’re going to remove plastic and replace it with recyclable ones, yes, it will be more costly,” he said.
“And bottom line: the customer will pay a bit more, too.”
The head of the Canadian Plastics Industry Association said in a statement that the organization wants to be part of the solution.
“Plastics are key to our modern and sustainable way of life, but they do not belong in the environment. We understand the urgency of the problem and are committed to being part of the solution,” said Carol Hochu, president of CPIA.
Consumers, producers and retailers will all be watching closely as the government studies just how their single-use plastic ban will look.