The clock is now ticking for businesses when it comes to finding alternatives to single-use plastics.
On Wednesday, the federal government announced that it is moving to fulfill a promise to ban single-use plastics by the end of 2021.
For many Kingston-area businesses, the move comes as no shock as they have adjusted over the last several years to decrease plastic use.
“Paper bags are something we’ve moved to for almost two years. Same with paper straws,” said Richard Wicklam, the manager of the Tir Nan Og Irish Pub.
Currently, the Tir Nan Og offers plastic utensils on request, but when the ban comes into effect in 2021, this will no longer be an option.
The list of banned plastics includes grocery bags, straws, stir sticks, six-pack rings, cutlery and food containers.
Businesses and restaurants in the downtown core are weighing the options for switching from single-use plastics, and many find the alternatives more expensive.
It’s an issue that may fall to the consumer, according to Queen’s University environmental studies professor, Dr. Myra Hird.
“Who is going to bear the brunt of the cost of this? Who’s it going to be? Is all of this going to be passed down to consumers?” said Hird via Zoom.
“Or does it mean that we’re just going to be paying more and more and more for the things that … we’re buying?”
Hird suggests the government should put structures in place that the manufacturers bear the cost, but says changes like these usually hit the consumer’s wallet.
“Studies over and over again show that consumer’s attitude towards biodegradable recycling is very strong, very positive,” Hird said.
“But the bottom line is that for many Canadians and especially now during the pandemic in our economic situation, people just cannot afford to buy higher-priced products.”
Although Hird says the plastic ban is crucial to protect the environment, she has concerns with the production of the alternative.
“What’s going to replace the single-use items? We need to really make sure that it’s not going to be worse for the environment, whatever we replace it with,” said Hird.
On Wednesday, Canadian Environment Minister Jonathan Wilkinson said Canadians increased the number of plastics they used during the pandemic, which was among the considerations made by the government in preparing the list of six items to be banned and that many of the items targeted by the ban have readily available affordable alternatives.
“The problem is getting worse. Action is needed to keep plastic out of our environment,” said Wilkinson.
According to Wilkinson, Canadians only recycle roughly nine per cent of the plastics used in the country each year, and while plastics can be useful, those being used must be recyclable.
In June, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said the government would look at the policies implemented earlier in the year by the European Union as a model.
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