Nova Scotia

Not the last straw, but campaign is on in Halifax to reduce their use

As Halifax works with the restaurant industry to reduce plastic straw use, some restaurants are also finding savings by reducing the use of other types of plastic.

Halifax working with restaurant industry to reduce plastic straw use

Cheryl Doherty, owner of the Old Triangle Irish Alehouse in Halifax, estimated the pub spent $25-$30 weekly on straws and $125 weekly on plastic dipping cups. (CBC)

Halifax is working with local restaurants to reduce the use of plastic in the industry, including plastic straws.

Coun. Tony Mancini raised the issue at the city's environment and sustainability committee Thursday and councillors voted to consult with food establishments.

Meanwhile, some in the restaurant industry say they're already moving forward to reduce plastic use on their own.

Recent measures at the Old Triangle Irish Alehouse saw a reduction of not only straws, but several other types of plastic as well.

Owner Cheryl Doherty explained the restaurant decided to take the steps after realizing its kitchen was producing a lot of unnecessary plastic waste. 

"Straws were obviously the easiest one to do, but we use a lot of the little plastic portion cups for all our sauces and dips," she said.

The Old Triangle Irish Alehouse has moved to paper takeout bags instead of plastic bags, metal cups for sauces and small metal jugs for milk and cream rather than disposable plastic containers. (CBC)

In the last three weeks, the kitchen has also moved to paper takeout bags instead of plastic bags, metal cups for sauces and small metal jugs for milk and cream rather than disposable plastic containers.

The restaurant launched the program on Earth Day and so far, the response has been good. 

"It's amazing. Not one guest has complained about not getting straws," she said. "Those who have made a comment have been, 'That's great, well done.' So the feedback has been very positive." 

Doherty said the upfront cost for the reusable metal containers was fairly high, coming in at more than $1,000.

Halifax councillor Tony Mancini has raised the issue of how the city can work with the restaurant industry to reduce the use of plastic straws. (CBC)

However, that's offset by the ongoing cost of approximately $25-30 per week for plastic straws and $125 per week for plastic dipping cups. Staff will keep some special paper straws on hand for children and customers who request one.

"There is a bit of a cost investment, but I think there's also a customer experience benefit with that," she said. "You have nice presentations, you try to enhance the guest experience at the same time. Hopefully, one kind of trades off the other."

At Wild Leek, a vegan restaurant in Halifax, staff do not regularly serve straws with drinks, although they are available upon request. 

Rachael Delano, a server at Wild Leek in Halifax, says staff do not regularly serve straws with drinks, although they are available upon request. (CBC)

The restaurant has made efforts to reduce all kinds of plastic waste by moving to biodegradable, compostable or recyclable containers for food. It also uses recycled paper napkins and recycled paper wrappers for pastries and tries to reduce food waste overall. 

Server Rachael Delano estimates the shop uses between 15 and 20 straws each day for its takeout smoothie orders. 

"Straws are a tricky one. We have, in the past, used compostable straws and other times, we haven't. It's hard in the service industry because we also have takeout smoothies. We're trying to navigate what to use instead of that," she said. 

The restaurant's goal is to find a replacement for plastic straws this summer.  

"It's one of the things we are trying to work towards. There's lots of strides we have already made in terms of our produce and our takeout containers and our materials that we use in the shop all the time." 

Wild Leek, a Halifax vegan restaurant, estimates it uses about 15-20 straws per day. (CBC)

Delano said staff at Wild Leek hope to reduce plastic use of all types. 

Luc Erjavec, the vice-president of the Atlantic division of Restaurants Canada, said he has been working with Mancini on the plastic straw motion. 

He said for the most part, the response from his members has been "very, very positive" about reducing straws, and that the issue will be on the agenda at his organization's national board meeting in June. However, he has hesitations about a total ban on straws. 

Luc Erjavec, the vice-president of the Atlantic division of Restaurants Canada, says the response from his members has been 'very, very positive' about reducing straws. (CBC)

"I think the first step is awareness education and working from there," he said.

"Our customers want those products: a slushie, a smoothie. It's hard just to say ban. We have to get what works for the customer and what works for the industry." 

Doherty said she feels the issue should not be overlegislated and said consulting with restaurants is important. 

"With what we're doing here, we're trying to think it out well and make sure that it benefits us, it benefits guests, it benefits the environment," she said. 

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