Looking for low-waste shopping options in Waterloo region? Here's 5 places to start

With consumer aversion to single-use plastic packaging growing, a few local businesses and organisations in Kitchener-Waterloo are offering alternatives to conventional food packaging.
Fenigo in Waterloo offers silicone, bamboo and metal straws as a reusable alternative to a plastic straw. (Alexandra Burza/CBC)

Single-use plastic packaging may become a thing of the past, if proposed legislation to ban the items is realized.

And, according to one Dalhousie University study, most people are on board with that.

More than 70 per cent of respondents to a study from the university's Agri-Food Analytics Lab said they supported a federal ban on the items. Nearly 40 per cent said they would be willing to pay more for an item in biodegradable packaging.

Single-use plastics include things such as plastic bags, straws and other packaging intended to be used only once before being thrown away.

Tova Davidson is the director of Sustainable Waterloo Region, a non-profit that promotes sustainability.

Although some single use plastics are recyclable, a very small percentage of them are actually placed in recycling bins, Davidson said.

She recommends reading up on what Waterloo Region will accept in terms of recyclable plastics. 

Davidson also recommends people track and evaluate their plastic waste, and choose the things they can replace with alternative reusable products.

Full Circle Foods offers a large number of bulk products and has a 'weigh your own container' station to encourage customers to shop waste-free.

"Collect all of your single-use plastics for the day, and then pick one thing you think you can change. And then do it again maybe a week later," said Davidson. 

At the University of Waterloo, sustainability manager Mat Thijssen says eliminating plastic waste has been a priority for students and faculty and interest in zero-waste initiatives is going up.

"I think it's very tangible, people see it on an everyday basis, and there are actions you can take on an individual level that make a difference," Thijssen said.

A number of local businesses are catering to people who are trying to go low or zero-waste, as well as limit single-use plastics. Here are some of what's on offer:

1. Zero Waste Bulk in Waterloo

This uptown Waterloo retailer offers a variety of biodegradable or eco-friendly alternatives to conventional plastic items, such as beeswax food wrap and silicone snack baggies. They also offer some package-free produce, as well as bulk grocery items and hygiene products.

2. Full Circle Foods in Kitchener

Although not yet boasting an entirely plastic free selection, Full Circle Foods co-owner Julia Gogoleva says they are adding new waste-free products. Among their special offerings is a make-your-own peanut butter machine.

"We're really interested in environmental issues, so we're trying to think about all the different ways food systems interact with the environment," said Gogoleva.

The bulk grocer also specializes in locally sourced and plant-based foods.

Full Circle Foods is located in downtown Kitchener. Its co-owners are Julia Gogoleba and Sam Nabi.

3. Fenigo Inc. in Waterloo

Fenigo Inc. describes itself as the "home of the litter-less lunch." The retailer and distributor offers kitchenware, food containers and other single-use plastic alternatives.

"For me, it was a way to inspire other people to ... reduce all this waste because it doesn't really go anywhere, it stays with us for a long, long time," said owner Jana Campbell. 

Jana Campbell is the owner of Fenigo, a store offering waste-free alternative products to single use plastics. (Alexandra Burza/CBC)

4. The Sustainable Market in Waterloo and Guelph

The service allows users to order boxes of seasonal produce from local farmers.

The Sustainable Market eliminates plastic packaging that is used by food distributors and grocery retailers by connecting customers directly with the producers.

5. Diva International in Kitchener

Diva International is a Kitchener-based feminine hygiene product company, providing a sustainable menstrual care solution.

Disposable menstrual products contribute to single-use plastic waste from packaging and applicators. Their product, the Diva Cup, is a reusable silicone menstrual cup.

Diva International is a Kitchener-based feminine hygiene product company. Their product, the Diva Cup, is a reusable silicone menstrual cup. (Submitted by Diva Cup)

Do you have a favourite low-waste or single use plastic replacement shop in Waterloo region? Share it in the comments!


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