Air Ronge restaurant goes plastic- and polystyrene-free

Jaime Charles said he could walk around his community of Air Ronge and tell which containers were from his restaurant when he saw garbage on the ground. He wanted to make a change.

Cravings Late Night Food switched to mostly paper takeout containers and utensils

Charles picks the wild rice used at the restaurant with his dad. (Cravings Late Night Food/Facebook)

Jaime Charles says he used to be able to walk around his community of Air Ronge in northern Saskatchewan and recognize the garbage from his restaurant.

Just by looking on the ground, he could tell which containers were from Cravings Late Night Food — and he didn't like that one bit.

"I don't like going out, seeing a [foam] container ... when I see it, it bothers me," he said.

Environmentalists say plastic straws and polystyrene foam containers can take many, many years to decompose.

So Charles, who started Cravings five years ago, decided to banish both materials from his business.

Now, he says, his straws are made of paper as are the takeout containers. 

"Customers are letting us know that they're finding other uses for these containers at home," he said.

The new utensils, meanwhile, are made of a cornstarch base, and are biodegradable.

It's the kind of change Air Ronge has been looking for, he says.

"We listen to the community a lot and we try to give them what they want most of the time or as much as we can."

Cost difference

Charles said it is more expensive to have made the switch to the more eco-friendly containers. But he said he saved money by starting to make his own utensil packs rather than purchasing the pre-made ones. 

Another advantage is the food quality stays better than in foam containers, according to Charles. They did a test and let a burger and fries sit in each type of container for 15 minutes, and tasted the food after. 

"In the paper container, the burger still had its integrity, the fries were still nice and crispy," Charles said. 

"It'll overall leave you with a happy customer and just knowing that you're also doing something for nature is just two birds with one stone."

With files from CBC Radio's The Afternoon Edition