British Columbia

How some small businesses are ditching plastic

Some B.C., businesses were already making the move away from single-use plastics before there was talk of a nationwide plastic ban.

Paper straws, compostable take-out containers are among the most popular practices

The federal government has pledged to eliminate single-use plastics — which could include straws, bags and cutlery — in Canada as early as 2021 to curb waste. (Patrick Pleul/AFP/Getty Images)

Before a national plastics ban was announced this week, some communities and businesses across the country have already started trying to phase out single-use plastics.

Here is what three small businesses in Kelowna in B.C.'s Southern Interior are doing.

Pulp Fiction Coffee House

Devon Aylward, manager of Pulp Fiction in Kelowna, said she and her staff are always looking for more ways to cut back on plastic waste. (Christine Coulter/CBC)

Pulp Fiction Coffee House recently switched to paper straws and wood stir sticks.

"The coffee industry does use a lot of single-use plastics and we are trying here to move away from it," manager Devon Aylward said.

The shop is currently looking into biodegradable cups for cold drinks, and more sustainable take-out cutlery options — likely bamboo.

Aylward says the changes at the business level could help consumers more easily change their behaviours.

"When they grab a plastic lid, they don't think of where it's coming from, where it's going and how it has an impact. So by businesses starting and changing their practices it will change the way people see them and make it more normal, as opposed to someone preaching in a street, yelling at you to change your views."

Pho Soc Trang Vietnamese Cuisine

Pho Soc Trang Vietnamese Cuisine, which typically uses styrofoam and plastic packaging, is considering asking customers to bring their own containers for take-out. (Christine Coulter/CBC)

A Vietnamese restaurant in downtown Kelowna tries to be eco-friendly, but manager Jenny Nguyen said they have a hard time finding an affordable supplier.

"We are small business so it's kind of a lot of investment into saving the environment," she said. "But we try."

Instead of changing their products, Pho Soc Trang Vietnamese Cuisine cuts back by not adding excess plastic utensils for take out orders.

Nguyen said only about 20 per cent of customers were actually using extra cutlery and straws, so now they only give it to them if they ask for it. However, she said some people still ask for the extras, even though they don't use them.

Similarly, the restaurant doesn't automatically give out straws. Even when people ask for them, Nguyen said they tell patrons that they don't have environmentally-friendly straws in hopes of dissuading them from using plastic straws.

Now, they're looking at asking customers to bring their own containers for take out orders to cut back on the amount of styrofoam and plastic they use. Nguyen sees this as a way for customers and businesses to work together to change habits.

Little Hobo Soup and Sandwich Shop

The Little Hobo Soup and Sandwich Shop wants to use only compostable materials for take-out by the end of the summer. (Facebook)

Crystal Dougan, co-owner of Little Hobo Sandwich shop, is researching affordable compostable products for her restaurant.

"We're planning on moving toward all compostables," she said, adding that she'd like that switch to happen by the end of this summer.

Right now, staff keep single-use plastic down by asking customers if they require a plastic bag or plastic cutlery when they get food to go. They've also made the switch to paper straws, and have found cost-effective compostable bowls and lids.

"We're getting there, we're just slowly moving through what we can afford without bumping up our prices too much," Dougan said.

With files from Christine Coulter.