As of Jan. 1, Vancouver became the first Canadian city to formally ban styrofoam takeout containers. It’s part of that city’s ambitious plan to phase out single-use item waste, and it’s an idea that has restaurateurs across the country considering the future of the takeout container in their cities.
Winnipeg restaurant owner Scot McTaggart, a director at Restaurants Canada, told 680 CJOB his industry has long been aware of the environmental dangers of styrofoam.
In the absence of an enforced ban, he said, many in the food biz have taken their own steps to remove or reduce foam waste.
McTaggart said his restaurant, Fusion Grill, has moved primarily to aluminum takeout containers, as well as durable Tupperware-type containers that can be washed and reused by customers.
He said he’s torn on the idea of a ban in Winnipeg because he’s not sure how it would be successfully implemented.
“I like the idea of the ban on styrofoam on one side, but on the other side, I’m wondering who’s going to police that?
“I’d like to see more of my colleagues in the restaurant industry understand the effects of what their actions have and make the decisions on their own so the government doesn’t have to necessarily go around legislating and policing that.”
The Vancouver ban applies to all white and coloured polystyrene foam cups and foam takeout containers used to serve prepared food or beverages and will be further expanded to include a ban on single-use plastic straws by Earth Day (April 22) of this year.
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McTaggart said most restaurateurs would be happy to make an environmentally friendly decision, but in many cases, financial limitations can get in the way.
“Savvy operators are able to make a go of it and make it work, but (for some), there’s not a lot of wiggle room there,” he said.
“If there are people who are really close with cash flow issues, they’re taking a look at a container that may be two cents less than another container. It might be easy for them to make that decision. When you’re in that situation, it’s tough, and I’m not judging.”
Styrofoam containers aren’t accepted for recycling by the City of Winnipeg, either in residential blue carts or at any of the city’s 4R depots, where residents can drop off materials that can be recycled, reused, composted or resold. It’s classified on the city’s website as garbage.