Nfld. & Labrador

Pour one out for plastic: George Street Festival saying goodbye to plastic cups

Canned beers sold for the street during the George Street Festival won't be poured into plastic cups this year.

Move could keep 150,000 cups off the street and out of the landfill, says Labatt spokesperson

People wanting to take beers outside during the George Street Festival will be taking cans this year and not plastic cups. (CBC)

If a new effort from the George Street Association goes according to plan, there could be 150,000 fewer red plastic cups littering the street or heading for the landfill after the George Street Festival this year.

In an effort to generate less plastic waste, revellers on the street during the seven-day festival this August will drink beers from cans and not from plastic cups, says Jonathan Galgay, the association's executive director.

"It's just a waste," Galgay said. "When you have beer in an aluminum container that is becoming widely accepted, pouring beer from one container into another container doesn't seem to make a whole lot of sense."

During the George Street Festival, bars can't serve patrons bottled beer to take outside because of the risk of injuries from broken glass. Beers that go outside have to come from cans, and those cans are typically emptied into red plastic cups.

Each year, Labatt, the festival's exclusive beer sponsor, would ship 150,000 plastic cups to bars along the street ahead of the festival. In partnership with the association, the company won't do that this year. Instead, patrons will drink from the cans.

This is just an additional item that we've been able to check off with the ultimate goal of really reducing the plastics that we use."​​​​​- Jonathan Galgay

The cups Labatt provided in the past were biodegradable but they take a long to time to decompose, said company spokesperson Wade Keller.

"There was still an unnecessary impact on the environment, and they all end up usually in plastic bags that end up in the landfill, and then just add to the waste stream," Keller said.

Working on mixed drinks

The move won't completely eliminate plastic cups from the festival, Galgay said. Some bars may still have cups from past festivals kicking around, and they may want to use them up.

And mixed drinks are a different can of … well, beverage.

"Some products, you really have no other choice but to pour into some type of a glass, a paper cup or plastic cup," he said. "Those discussions are ongoing."

Jonathan Galgay says holding back the beer cups at this year's George Street Festival is a first step toward a plastic-free George Street. (CBC)

But with the federal government eyeing a ban on single-use plastics as early as 2021, this year's initiative puts the festival ahead of the curve, he said. 

Bar owners are largely on board with the goal of reducing plastic waste, Galgay said.

"Some bars have already taken steps themselves to reduce cups, some have taken steps to reduce plastic straws, they've moved to the paper product. So this is just an additional item that we've been able to check off with the ultimate goal of really reducing the plastics that we use."

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