Takeout prices will spike after Edmonton bylaw kicks in, packaging wholesaler predicts
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Takeout prices will spike after Edmonton bylaw kicks in, packaging wholesaler predicts

Jun 03, 2024

Edmonton businesses are swapping out plastic shopping bags and food containers made of polystyrene foam for more sustainable options before a new city bylaw comes into effect in less than two weeks.

The bylaw, which aims to reduce waste and comes into effect on July 1, bans single-use plastic shopping bags and foam food containers.

Businesses must charge at least 15 cents for a paper shopping bag and at least $1 for a reusable one.

Restaurants must serve dine-in customers beverages in reusable cups and have a policy for accepting customers' reusable cups.

Some organizations, including charities and hospitals, won't have to follow the new rules, but they apply to most organizations with a business licence or permits for large city events.

Brian Blacklock, president of the wholesaler Pegasus Paper, said Edmontonians should expect a dramatic increase in takeout prices because of the new bylaw. He said his clients often talk about how much more expensive sustainable packaging costs.

"The packaging for your takeout food is about 20 per cent of the cost of your meal, and if that 20 per cent doubles in price, somebody's got to pay for it," he said.

Blacklock said some restaurants might stop offering takeout as a result.

Garneau's La Poutine restaurant, on 109th Street, started charging for paper bags and giving customers wooden forks this week. The restaurant has also been testing different sustainable takeout containers before July 1.

Though paper bags will cost co-owner Lindsey Robbins about 15 times more than plastic ones, she said she doesn't view the changes as a burden to her business.

"We all need to start thinking about making greener choices, whatever that is," she said.

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Robbins said many customers are forgoing paper bags, realizing they don't need them.

Roderick Almonte of the Filipino restaurant Karinderya, in Mill Woods, has also already started charging customers 15 cents for paper bags.

He said most customers are aware of the changing rules.

"And for those who don't know, we just explain to them," he said.

Like Robbins, he has also had to pay more for takeout packaging — roughly double what he used to for some types of food containers.

In an industrial park by the Edmonton International Airport, Alfie Hsu's company, Plant Plus, is preparing to manufacture millions of compostable drinking straws from local agricultural byproducts.

Hsu has already been selling straws made with imported sugar cane using technology and machinery developed in Taiwan, but by the time Edmonton's new bylaw comes into effect, he'll be producing straws from sugar beet pulp, hemp fibre and canola meal from Alberta farmers.

These materials would either have been burned or dumped in a landfill, he said, and manufacturing the straws locally from local materials cuts out production and shipping costs.

The straws cost restaurants the same as paper ones, he said, but customers prefer them because they don't get soggy or affect the taste of drinks.

"It's like a normal straw so you can enjoy your drink during the meal," he said.

Hsu has orders lined up from companies in Alberta, B.C. and Ontario, and American companies are expressing interest as well.

The federal government is also cracking down on single-use items, banning the manufacturing of plastic straws, stir sticks and utensils late last year.

The federal regulations say single-use items can still be sold and used in Canada until December of this year, while Edmonton's bylaw is focused on reducing all types of single-use items.


Madeleine Cummings is a reporter with CBC Edmonton. She covers local news for CBC Edmonton's web, radio and TV platforms. You can reach her at [email protected].

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