PEI·Waves of Change

2 Summerside businesses offer new alternatives to single-use plastic

Two Summerside businesses are offering new alternatives to single-use plastic, from biodegradable packaging to cloth produce and sandwich bags.

New law eliminating plastic checkout bags on P.E.I. is sparking interest from consumers

Darcia Burnett says her customers are looking for less of a carbon footprint on the items that they buy and in the packaging as well. (Nancy Russell/CBC)

Waves of Change is a CBC series exploring the single-use plastic we're discarding, and why we need to clean up our act. You can be part of the community discussion by joining our Facebook group.

Two Summerside businesses are offering new alternatives to single-use plastic, from biodegradable packaging to produce, sandwich and grocery bags made from cloth.

Farmed Market and Craft Butchery has started to eliminate polystyrene, switching to biodegradable trays for packaging meat, meals to go and school lunches, as well as wooden cutlery, cups that are made from recycled material only as well as paper straws.

Farmed Market uses the new biodegradable dishes for the affordable school lunch program it provides at Greenfield and Amherst Cove schools. (Farmed Market and Craft Butchery)

"We want to make sure that our impact on the environment is as little as possible," said Darcia Burnett, owner of Farmed, along with her husband Jordon.

"We can't do everything all at once but every step, every decision we make on what we purchase for our customers, is going to have less of an impact."

Burnett says the more environmentally-friendly packaging does cost more, but not much more.

"Just a few pennies on each item so really the cost is the value of what it's doing to the environment," Burnett said.

"Customers really want to see packaging that is not going to make an impact and it's going to be easy for them to use and recycle or biodegrade."

The Burnetts have been operating the store since 2017 and are constantly reacting to what they're hearing from consumers. (Randy McAndrew/CBC)

Pushing the 'big guys'

The Burnetts have been operating the store since 2017.

"We talk every day with our customers and they tell us what they want," Burnett said.

"They are looking for organic vegetables, local meat, they're looking for less of a carbon footprint on the items that they buy and in the packaging as well."

The Burnetts are currently using a Quebec-based distributor, but are talking to an Island company about bringing in more green packaging. (Nancy Russell/CBC)

The Burnetts are also speaking to food distributors about making more environmentally-friendly packaging available. 

"Our customers are pushing us and we're pushing the big guys so that everyone in the end is making the right choices."

Business opportunity

The Burnetts are currently using a Quebec-based distributor, but Jordon Burnett recently attended a trade show put on by ADL and has been talking to the Island company about bringing in more green packaging.

"Right now I'm buying a lot of my products either from Montreal but a lot of the products are only available in the U.S., with the shipping cost and duty fees have brought that cost up to its threshold for us," Burnett said.

"It's a great business opportunity out there, to find a distributor that's selling these products in Canada and to me on P.E.I."

The Burnetts are also speaking to food distributors about making more environmentally-friendly packaging available. (Nancy Russell/CBC)

The Burnetts are also preparing for July 1 when new rules eliminating plastic checkout bags take effect on P.E.I.

"At first I thought I would order them online," Darcia Burnett said.

"But I thought why not use people that are in the community that can knit, crochet and sew wonderful bags that we can sell here in the store and that supports the local economy."

Looking for options

Colette Aucoin is also preparing for the new rules on plastic bags, by creating her own line of produce, sandwich and grocery bags that she sells at the Summerside Farmer's Market.

It's a new direction for her part-time business that started as Inspire Essential Oil Heatable Bags.

Colette Aucoin is starting to get requests for custom orders. (Nancy Russell/CBC)

"A lot of seams, a lot of work goes into them, the price is reasonable, you can fit a lot of groceries in there," Aucoin said.

"My sandwich bags, they find them cute, nice and appealing so they're getting them for kids."

Aucoin says the sandwich bags have been increasingly popular as consumers try to reduce their single-use plastic. (Randy McAndrew/CBC)

Aucoin is starting to get some custom orders, from businesses like the Farmed Market.

"I have had some requests so I may consider like consignment with different local vendors that sell local products ... especially for the produce bags and maybe for the grocery bags as well," Aucoin said.

While she has a loyal customer base at the farmers market, Aucoin believes the message of reducing single-use plastic is starting to spread.

Colette Aucoin holds one of the produce bags she is selling at the Summerside Farmer's Market. (Randy McAndrew/CBC)

"I think the will is starting to be there, with young people ... they're more sensitive to stuff like this," Aucoin said. 

"I think it's something that's almost there and that we should just keep on talking it out."

About the Author

Nancy Russell has been a reporter with CBC since 1987, in Whitehorse, Winnipeg, Toronto and Charlottetown. When not on the job, she spends her time on the water rowing, travelling to Kenya or walking her dog. Nancy.Russell@cbc.ca

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