Ottawa

Greenhouse owner wants feds, retailers to help bear burden of plastics ban

The owner of a Manotick greenhouse says the federal government is going to have to come up with solutions if it wants small companies like his to survive its ban on single-use plastics.

Alternatives to single-use plastic packaging 30% more expensive, SunTech owner says

Many SunTech tomatoes come in single-use plastic packaging. (SunTech Greenhouses Ltd./Facebook)

The owner of a Manotick greenhouse says the federal government is going to have to come up with solutions if it wants small companies like his to survive its proposed ban on single-use plastics.

On Monday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced the government would ban plastic bags, straws, cutlery and some single-use packaging as early as 2021.

I need government to get involved with our larger retailers and come up with an answer, not just a ban.- Bob Mitchell, SunTech Greenhouses Ltd.

Bob Mitchell, owner of SunTech Greenhouses Ltd. in Ottawa's rural southern end, said that won't be easy for his company, which relies on plastic packaging to ship much of its fresh produce to area grocery stores.

Mitchell wants the government to place part of the responsibility on those retailers, not just on producers.

Bob Mitchell, owner of SunTech tomatoes in Manotick, said he's eager to find alternatives to the plastic packaging used to sell his company's cherry tomatoes. (CBC)

"I need government to get involved with our larger retailers and come up with an answer, not just a ban," Mitchell said.

SunTech recently began experimenting with shipping cherry tomatoes in bulk to smaller grocery stores such as McKeen Metro in the Glebe and Herb & Spice on Wellington Street, he said.

But that doesn't work with his company's larger customers.

"We are in Costco, and [in] their entire system, the smallest thing they sell loose is a watermelon. They're not geared for this," he said. "They've got to come up with ideas along with us, and government. It's a joint approach, the only way it'll work."

Mitchell has found biodegradable or paper packaging to be about 30 per cent more expensive, a cost he said he'd have to pass on to his customers, who would likely pass it on to the consumer.

Duncan Bury is the co-founder of Waste Watch Ottawa. (Julie Ireton/CBC)

A good 1st step

Duncan Bury, co-founder of Waste Watch Ottawa, said he believes the proposed legislation is a good first step, but agreed the entire burden shouldn't fall on the shoulders of producers like SunTech.

"If you're going to give producers the responsibility, [retailers and manufacturers] have to play by the same rules. So government needs to have a major role in all that, setting some accountability and performance measures and targets," Bury said.

SunTech tomatoes are sold in bulk without plastic packages in some small grocery stores in Ottawa. Bigger grocery stores aren't often equipped to do the same. (CBC)

He points to British Columbia, which switched to a "cradle-to-grave" recycling model in 2014. The model is also popular in many European countries.

Under B.C.'s system, manufacturers pay a fee for any packaging they create that will eventually end up in the recycling bin.

Bury hopes major companies such as Walmart, Unilever and Canadian Tire will help lead the way toward better alternatives to single-use plastics.

"They have a major role to play," Bury said.

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