British Columbia

Okanagan restaurant challenges restaurants to cut Styrofoam use

A restaurant in Kelowna wants to eliminate Styrofoam packaging on its premises, including take-out containers and the foam packaging used by suppliers who deliver food to its kitchens.

'It's a huge problem,' says Kelowna chef Bernard Casavant

A local restaurant in Kelowna aims to ban Styrofoam packaging, from take-out containers to any Styrofoam used by food suppliers to package products. (CBC)

A restaurant in Kelowna wants to eliminate Styrofoam packaging from its premises, including take-out containers and the foam packaging used by suppliers who deliver food to its kitchens.

RauDz Regional Table, a restaurant in downtown Kelowna, is attempting to cut out Styrofoam by using biodegradable containers for takeout packaging. The restaurant is also challenging its food suppliers to deliver food to the restaurant in reusable containers.

And it wants other Okanagan restaurants to take the same steps.

Cities across Canada are grappling with the issue of takeout containers. A Vancouver report from 2017 said 2.6 million paper coffee cups, and unknown amounts of foam takeout food containers are thrown out each week.

Reducing single-use containers is a priority for many municipal waste strategies. And restaurants are also starting their own initiatives. 

Challenge issued

"It's a huge problem," Chef Bernard Casavant, executive director at RauDz, told Radio West host Sarah Penton.

Casavant noted the amount of Styrofoam that comes into restauraunt kitchens from food suppliers is also high.

"It's not just local. This is a national and international problem."

RauDz owner Chef Rod Butters publicly challenged chefs at the Okanagan Chefs Association meeting in early February to say no to Styrofoam.

Styrofoam is notoriously difficult to recycle, but has traditionally been used to package fresh food, particularly fish for restaurant deliveries. (Suresh Doss)

How suppliers are making the change

Jonathan Crofts, co-owner of fishmonger Codfathers in Kelowna, says his business has now begun using reusable plastic tote containers with sealed lids — like those used for office supplies — for fish deliveries. These are used to both unload and clear out the fish at restaurants. 

"It was just a natural progression, really," said Crofts of the switch from Styrofoam. 

In the wake of Butters' challenge at the chef's association meeting, Codfathers plans to be eliminate Styrofoam use entirely by the end of March. While buying reusable containers is more expensive than buying Styrofoam, Crofts says it will not affect his business' costs in the long-run.

"There is a one-off cost for the containers ... But I can't really see any drawbacks. Environmentally it's great."

Crofts says the switch from Styrofoam to reusable totes will save time for restaurants and food suppliers. Chefs will now have to inspect the food immediately rather than wait until after the food has been unpacked. If there are any mistakes with the order or quality of the food, chefs will know immediately.

"It [also] means the product is being stored immediately in the correct way and is being efficiently moved into refrigeration," said Crofts. 

The president of the Okanagan Chefs Association brought Butters' initiative to the B.C. Chef's Association conference on Feb. 23. All branch presidents present at the conference adopted the initiative, according to Casavent. He says the next plan is to take the initiative to a national chefs association meeting in May. 

Listen to the full interview:

Local restaurants in Kelowna are focusing on banning styrofoam packaging. And not just take-out containers, but any and all styrofoam used to package food by suppliers. 7:04

With files by Radio West and Rachel Maclean

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