British Columbia

B.C. restaurants tackle plastic waste as part of program aimed at reducing trash in oceans

The Ocean Wise program works individually with participating restaurants to quantify how much plastic is being used before identifying where the businesses can reduce, replace, re-use or recycle plastics. 

'What gets measured really gets done,' program director says

According to Ocean Wise, 11 million tons of plastic waste ends up in the ocean each year.  (Shutterstock / Rich Carey)

Restaurants across B.C. are being encouraged to take a deep dive into their plastic waste as part of an Ocean Wise campaign aimed at reducing plastic in oceans. 

The program works individually with participating restaurants to quantify how much plastic is being used before identifying where the businesses can reduce, replace, re-use or recycle plastics.

According to Ocean Wise, 11 million tons of plastic waste ends up in the ocean each year. 

"The Ocean Wise Plastic Reduction Program isn't a one-size-fits-all solution," said Laura Hardman, plastic free oceans acting director. "We recognize that each business will be at a different point on their plastic-reduction journey, and we will work with restaurant partners to understand their plastic use, identify science-based solutions and set realistic targets."

11 restaurants participating so far

Although program coordinators are still actively recruiting businesses to participate, 11 restaurants have signed up for the program so far, including Spinnakers Gastro Brewpub in Victoria. 

"We're learning as we go," chef Ali Ryan told All Points West host Kathryn Marlow. 

Hardman said that while most of the restaurants in the program do think about recycling, they had never measured their plastic waste before. 

"It's an old saying but what gets measured really gets done, and we know that there is a huge data gap when it comes to industrial, commercial and institution plastic use and waste," Hardman said. 

"We believe that closing this information gap is critical to tackling the problem of plastic pollution."

Since May 1, staff at Spinnakers have been sorting plastic into specific bins, which Ryan later goes through and weighs. She then looks at how those numbers compare to the number of customers they've served.

"After three days, plastic that comes out of a kitchen is quite smelly. It's been illuminating," she said. 

For example, she's tracking gloves, which are essential for the restaurant industry. Spinnakers goes through just over a quarter-pound of gloves each day. They're also going through about one pound of plastic food wrap a day.

6 pounds per day

In total, Ryan said they've created about six pounds of plastic, on average, each day since the beginning of the project.

And those numbers are at a limited capacity, as public health restrictions currently don't allow indoor dining. 

"If we're doing five or six pounds a day at a half capacity, think about that. Think about all the restaurants in Victoria, think about all the restaurants in Canada," Ryan said.

"It's ridiculous. It's a very simple step we can take to educate ourselves on how much plastic all of us, not just restaurants, but we can do."

Working on the project in three-day increments, as opposed to one big count, has been more digestible for Ryan, and she said it's been easier to make small changes. 

For example, rather than using so much plastic food wrap, she can purchase reusable food storage containers. Additionally, she said she's looking at buying fewer, but larger, bottles of canola oil to reduce the number of plastic containers coming from her kitchen.

"Once we have that data, we can just sort of take a step back and say, OK, we can cut this in half with very, very little effort, because before we weren't really thinking about it," Ryan said.

To hear Ali Ryan's interview on CBC's All Points West, click here: 

Spinnakers Brewpub in Vic West has partnered with OceanWise to audit the amount of plastic waste they will generate throughout the month of May. Kathryn Marlow spoke to chef Ali Ryan about how much plastic a commercial kitchen generates, and why tracking it could help. 7:38

With files from All Points West

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