Sudbury leaders helping businesses go plastic-free

A Sudbury group that specializes in helping businesses reduce the amount of plastic they use for a boost from the provincial government yesterday.

Group gets $75,000 grant from Ontario's Trillium Foundation

Michaela Penwarden-Watson is co-founder of Plastic Free Greater Sudbury, a group that helps businesses reduce the amount of single-use plastics. (Markus Schwabe/CBC)

A Sudbury group that specializes in helping businesses reduce the amount of plastic they use received a boost from the provincial government yesterday.

Plastic Free Greater Sudbury, a group founded by Michaela Penwarden-Watson and Liz Anawati, received $75,000 through Ontario Trillium Foundation.

The group helps businesses come up with ideas to reduce their footprint ahead of a federal law that will ban single use plastics in 2021.

So far, Penwarden-Watson said, businesses have been on board with reducing plastics.

"We're asking really simple things from them. We're asking them to only remove three single use plastic items that customers would normally receive," she said. "So anything from straws, utensils, stir sticks, milk and creamer. It's so it can be really simple at the beginning. And that was our whole goal. We wanted it to be attainable and we wanted it to be easy."

Penwarden-Watson also said that businesses can help reduce operating costs by not automatically throwing items in a platic bag or providing plastic cutlery for take-out orders.

"Oftentimes when people are asked this question first, then they don't need it or they realize that they don't need it and don't take it," she said.

Tania Renelli is the co-owner of Salute Coffee in Sudbury. (Supplied by Plastic Free Greater Sudbury)

Tania Renelli, co-owner of Salute Coffee in Sudbury, was one of the first people to sign up with Plastic Free Greater Sudbury. 

"Since being introduced to [them] we've been brainstorming and came up with a number of different ideas where we could do better, because you can always do better," Renelli said. 

Renelli said the efforts at Salute included switching plastic cutlery to things such as bamboo. They also offer discounts for people who bring in reusable cups instead of disposable ones. 

"These are little, little changes that can have a big impact on our community," she said.

Salute offers reusable cutlery, as well as metal straws to help reduce the use of plastics. (Casey Stranges/CBC)

Nickel Belt MPP France Gélinas said  she was surprised the group's application to the OTF was accepted because of the conservative government's lack of "formal support" for environmental issues. 

"But they did a good job to put this together to show that they could have an impact, that they could have a difference and they got the funding," Gélinas said.

"I was just as surprised as they were that the funding came through, but this is great news for our community and I would say it's against all odds."

Gélinas added that people around Ontario are beginning to notice Sudbury's young leaders.

"Those young women...showed us that even everybody can make a difference if you have a good idea," she said. "Be bold. Don't be afraid."

"You come from Sudbury you will get the support. You will get the recognition. Let's use what we have to our advantage and then other people will follow."


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