Toronto’s ban on single-use plastics could cripple some Asian businesses, say restaurant owners

  • On July 7, Canada released regulations prohibiting single-use plastics and suggesting alternatives to reduce the environmental impact and wildlife harm of plastic pollution.
  • The new measures also aim to shift Canada from a linear to a circular economy, in which the products will stay “in the economy and out of the environment.”
  • To accomplish this national goal, the regulations ban single-use plastics, including the manufacture, sale, import and export of checkout bags, cutlery, foodservice ware (such as clamshell containers, lidded containers, boxes, cups, plates, or bowls made of polystyrene foam, polyvinyl chloride, carbon black or oxo-degradable plastics), ring carriers, stir sticks and straws.
  • Asian restaurants, especially curry, ramen and pho restaurants, rely on single-use plastics to stay in business.

Canada’s new regulations prohibiting single-use plastics could severely impact Asian businesses that sell sauce or liquid products.

The regulations, announced on June 20 and set to take effect in December, aim to not only reduce environmental impacts such as plastic pollution and wildlife harm, but to shift Canada from a linear to a circular economy, where according to the regulations, the products will stay “in the economy and out of the environment.”

To accomplish this national goal, the regulations ban single-use plastics including the manufacture, import, sale and export of checkout bags, cutlery, foodservice ware (such as clamshell containers, lidded containers, boxes, cups, plates, or bowls made of polystyrene foam, polyvinyl chloride, carbon black or oxo-degradable plastics), ring carriers, stir sticks and straws. 

Although the regulations are a significant step towards environmentalism, manufacturers and businesses — such as grocery stores, hotels and restaurants — and other organizations that use single-use plastics will be forced to adapt or risk being left behind. 

Asian restaurants, especially curry, ramen and pho restaurants, rely on single-use plastics to stay in business. Plastic take-out containers are necessary for food delivery; shifting to different materials may affect the quality of the product, resulting in spills, leakages and even increasing risks for burns. 

“It’s not that we don’t want to use biodegradable products: if the customer takes our food home and it spills, we’re going to get many complaints,” Chakorn Chanta-Urai of Thai Nyyom told Toronto Life

Linda Nguyen of Golden Turtle told the magazine, “You can’t package pho in paper — it will just fall apart. A large percentage of restaurants won’t be able to deliver food without using plastic containers.”

The Government of Canada suggested customers participate in the shift away from single-use plastics by bringing their own reusable bags and bins. Businesses were recommended to offer alternatives such as aluminum, glass, silicon, stainless steel, plant-based, fiber-based, cereal-based and compostable options that are sourced locally. 

However, because of the pandemic and potential for COVID touch contamination, businesses and customers have been concerned over the safety of reusable bags and containers and have shifted away from supporting them. 

Restaurant owners have to invest time and money in trying different single-use alternatives to maintain the quality of their products, but not every business can afford to experiment. 

“If the government isn’t finding a solution for restaurants that need durable eco containers, there will probably be restaurant owners who will risk being fined for continuing to use plastics just to stay in business,” Nguyen told Toronto Life.

Finally, the Government of Canada suggested businesses check if their products can be recycled properly because recycling services vary by location. 

Featured Image via Unsplash

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