In December 2021, the federal government announced a single-use plastics ban as a part of its plan to meet the goal of zero plastic waste by 2030. A scientific assessment done by the government of Canada revealed that plastic is polluting our rivers, lakes, and oceans and generating microplastics in water we use everyday.
The federal single-use plastics ban has been accompanied by bylaw regulations in some municipalities within Alberta. This article will help you understand these regulations and how they may affect your small business.
What is included within the ban
The federal government has defined six categories of single-use plastics that include checkout bags, cutlery, foodservice ware, ring carriers, stir sticks and straws. All of these items contribute to the adverse effects of plastic pollution. To find out more about the technical specifications visit the government of Canada’s website.
Some municipal bylaws go beyond the federal recommendations to include not only plastics, but single use items in general. Single-use items generally fit within the same categories mentioned above but may be made from alternative materials such as wood, bamboo, foam, cardboard, and other materials.
How it can affect your business
The federal regulations prohibit the manufacture, import, and sale of products in the six categories mentioned above. To allow the industry to adapt to the changes these regulations are being implemented on a staggered timeline.
In addition to the federal policy, many municipalities are introducing their own regulations around single use items. Banff, Wetaskiwin, Spruce Grove, Edmonton (effective July 1st) and Calgary (effective 2024), are among the municipalities that have passed bylaws on single-use items.
These bylaws are designed to complement the federal policy, with some taking the next step toward single-use items in general rather than specifically single-use plastics. While each bylaw has its distinctive elements, there is commonality between them. They each address several items that may affect your business:
- The distribution of single-use plastic shopping bags (including compostable ones).
- Minimum charge amount for paper shopping bags and reusable bags.
- Restrictions on foam plates, cups and containers.
- Request only policies for food service items like utensils, straws, condiment packets, napkins and stir sticks.
If any of these regulations apply to your business you can check the links above for more information about the specific bylaws in your municipality.
Potential Benefits and Challenges
While adapting to these new regulations may seem challenging, there are many benefits to pivoting your business away from single-use items. With consumers having a strong preference for sustainability, being able to adopt environmentally conscious practices may help you capture more market share and will contribute to a more positive brand image, which can also impact your ability to attract and retain top talent. Additionally, exploring single-use alternatives creates possibilities for innovation and business growth, and you may find other ways within your business to make greener choices.
Adapting to these new policies may take time as your business figures out the best way to adopt, align and shift. You may want to consider how supply chain issues may impact your business and ensure that alternatives can be sourced to meet your needs.
Strategies for compliance
An important step in ensuring your business’s compliance with these regulations is thorough research and understanding of both the federal and local policies. If your business utilizes single-use items currently, it’s important to set aside time to explore sustainable packaging and materials that will suit your specific needs. It’s a good idea to reach out to suppliers and collaborate with them so they can support you in your transition away from plastics and other single-use materials.
For more information on how you can grow your business, visit atbentrepreneurcentre.com/resources.