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How fast food chains, grocery stores are responding to Canada's plastics ban

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As the first phase of Canada's plastics ban comes into force, restaurants and grocery stores have been coming up with greener replacements as they phase out disposable bags, cutlery, and packaging.

As of Tuesday, the manufacture and import of single-use plastic straws, bags, cutlery, stir sticks and takeout containers has been banned in Canada. The manufacture and import of ring carriers for canned beverages is set to become banned in June, while a ban on the sale of these single-use plastics will take effect Dec. 20, 2023.

Here's how companies have been responding to and getting ahead of the plastics ban:

COFFEE CHAINS

Tim Hortons had already been using paper straws since October 2020. But on the same day that phase one of the plastics ban came into effect, the company announced that it would be rolling out cutlery made of wood and fibre starting in early 2023.

Tim Hortons also plans to introduce a new breakfast and lunch food wrapper the company says uses 75 per cent less material. In Vancouver, the company is also testing out new beverage lids made out of fibre.

But Tim Horton's isn't the only coffee company that has rushed to replace single-use plastics. Starbucks Canada announced in August 2021 it had switched to paper straws and cutlery made of recyclable polypropylene.

Starbucks also resumed its bring-your-own-cup program in August 2021 after temporarily putting it on hiatus due to COVID-19 concerns. Customers who bring their own cup can also get a 10 cent discount on their drink. In Vancouver, the company has also began charging 25 cents for single-use cups in compliance with city bylaws.

RESTAURANT CHAINS

A&W has already made the switch to paper straws. The company announced the phase-out of plastic straws back in 2018 and is also one of the few fast food chains to offer metal baskets, glass mugs and ceramic plates to dine-in customers.

The same year, Subway Canada followed suit with paper straws, completing its transition in August 2019.

Recipe Unlimited -- parent company of Harvey's, Swiss Chalet, New York Fries and several other chain restaurants -- also announced in 2018 it would eliminate plastic straws. In April 2019, the company also announced it would eliminate plastic take-out bags and Styrofoam containers.

In October 2021, McDonald's Canada announced it would be switching to paper straws and wooden cutlery and stir sticks. McDonald's has also allowed customers to bring their own reusable mugs for coffee and tea orders since July 2022.

GROCERY STORES

in January 2020, Sobeys announced its move away from single-use plastic bags, becoming the first national Canadian grocery store to do so.

In April 2022, Walmart stopped offering plastic bags, instead offering reusable cloth bags. But the company has been criticized for giving out cloth bags for online grocery orders, leaving some customers saddled with piles of unneeded cloth bags.

Metro announced in June it would stop giving out plastic bags at its stores by September. Loblaw Companies also announced in June plans to eliminate single-use plastic shopping bags by the first quarter of 2023, and in October, the company announced the phase-out had been completed in Manitoba, Saskatchewan and the Northwest Territories.

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