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Toronto councillors call on restaurants to ditch plastic cutlery and plates

Two Toronto councillors are pushing city restaurants to start providing reusable cutlery and plates to reduce the amount of single-use plastics heading to the dump.

A motion heading to city council this week, Councillor Jaye Robinson and Councillor Brad Bradford are calling on council to back the city doing research into the feasibility of a new requirement for restaurants to provide reusable serviceware for eat-in customers.

The motion reveals that a whopping 30 per cent of items collected in blue boxes wind up in landfills, according to a provincial report. Researchers also estimate that 10,000 metric tons of plastic and microplastic enters the Great Lakes every year, the report continues.

Robinson said a similar effort to her motion was adopted by the city council in Berkeley, Calif., which requires all businesses to use reusable serviceware by mid-2020.

Amid the growing concerns over the impact of plastic pollution, sweeping changes have already been taking place in the restaurant industry in recent years.

Outlets around the world have started phasing out plastic drinking straws, for instance, with American coffee giant Starbucks vowing to swap plastic straws for biodegradable ones, or specially-designed drinking lids, by 2020.

At one Toronto restaurant called Farm’r restaurant patrons have to decide whether they’re eating lunch on a plate or taking their food to go in one of the restaurant’s reusable containers — which cost $4, a fee that’s fully refundable if customers bring them back later.

Malls like the Eaton Centre and Yorkdale, have also embraced reusable plates, glasses, and cutlery for patrons dining at their food courts.

Since expanding its Green Program seven years ago, Yorkdale has been able to reduce waste by 85 per cent, Robinson noted.

And he argued that’s what should continue reshaping the restaurant sector — not restrictions from a municipal government.

The councillors’ push for a reusable serviceware requirement could also present an “unmanageable” situation for any outlets which don’t have adequate dish-washing facilities on-site, he added.

There is hope that if this motion is passed, it would provide clarity in early 2020 on how the city could approach implementing a new requirement in the years ahead.

Toronto also recently launched the second phase of public consultations on reducing single-use and takeaway items at restaurants, which will focus on the possibility of charging people or businesses extra for single-use containers. -CINEWS

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