A resource for Grocery Stores, Retail Stores, Service Businesses, Catering Companies, and Restaurants 

Many people recognize the importance of reducing plastic waste. In fact, many Manitobans are actively working towards reducing plastic waste in their own lives. But what do we keep hearing? It’s difficult to find alternatives. There’s a lack of grocery stores with plastic-free options. And some businesses simply aren’t willing to accommodate requests. 

We’re here to tell you about the importance of reducing plastic waste at your business. Whether you’re a grocery store, retail store, service business, catering company, or restaurant, you likely distribute products in some capacity. What could your business do to cut down on this plastic waste?

Let’s work together to prevent plastic waste from the source.

Are you currently thinking, why can’t we just recycle the plastic? Or at the very least, simply ensure that it all ends up in the landfill rather than littering our oceans, yards, and streets? Let’s say that was possible (which would be pretty tough given that film plastics really love to float around in the wind), there are still a few problems…

Problems with the landfill:

  1. Resources are still going into producing the plastic (to be more specific, plastic is made from fossil fuels).
  2. Waste disposal contributes to approx. 4% of green house gasses (this is mostly methane produced from landfills). It’s incredibly important to ensure we send as little waste as possible to the landfills.
  3. Sending plastic waste to the landfill doesn’t mean it magically disappears. Although it’s out of our sight, it will be around forever. That plastic waste will sit there. And sit there. Eventually, it will likely start breaking down. But the plastic will simply turn into micro-plastics. These micro-plastics run-off into our soil and water systems and even end up in humans. Micro-plastics never fully go away.

Problems with recycling:

  1. There’s so much plastic waste (specifically film plastic such as plastic wrap, plastic grocery and produce bags, and plastic sandwich bags) on our planet that there’s no longer a market to sell it. It ends up costing more to try and recycle than it’s worth. Simply put, there’s no longer a demand for all of the plastic waste.
  2. Just like there are resources going into producing the plastic, there are also resources going into recycling it. Although diverting waste from the landfill is important, recycling is still not a perfect system.

Is your business ready to help tackle the problem of plastic waste?

We realize a shift towards reduced plastic waste in your business is not an easy task. But we promise that, for the sake of our planet, it will be worth it. And who knows, maybe the changes you’re making will even result in increased customers and clients.

Oh, and you might even receive recognition on our blog and social media outlets…

Where to begin? (Click on the business type that fits you best)

Grocery Stores
  • Choose to source groceries from suppliers that respond positively to requests about reducing packing. Skeptical that this isn’t possible? It is. See CBC Marketplace documentary for more.
    • Ex. Find cucumbers that aren’t individually wrapped in plastic. If you’re attached to your current cucumber supplier, ask them to stop wrapping the cucumbers individually in plastic. If plastic free cucumbers means they’re going to keep your business, maybe they’ll change their ways for you.
  • Offer bulk food sections and allow customers to bring their own containers. Don’t have space for a whole new section? Start small and see how it goes.
  • PRODUCE BAGS: Consider options that decrease the use of plastic produce bags, or eliminate their availability completely.
    • Put up signage with plastic facts and why bringing a reusable produce bag is important
    • Have reusable produce bags for sale in the produce section
    • Provide recycled paper bags as an alliterative for dry fruits/vegetables
    • Put up a graphic near the bananas and oranges stating “These fruits come in their own packaging: peel. Skip the bag.”
    • Offer a discount to people who bring their own reusable produce bag
  • GROCERY BAGS: Continue to remind people about the importance of bringing their own reusable grocery bags. The best way to do this is by eliminating plastic bags from your stores altogether or, at the very least, charging for plastic bags. Click here for our Plastic Bags in Retailers resource guide.
  • Carry products that help people decrease plastic waste in their own lives (ex. reusable straws, reusable produce bags, reusable sandwich bags, reusable water bottles).
  • Advertise the initiatives you are taking so people know to bring their own bags and/or containers when they’re coming to your store.
Retail Stores
  • Carry products that help people decrease plastic waste in their own lives (ex. reusable straws, reusable produce bags, reusable sandwich bags, reusable water bottles).
  • Carry quality products that have a long life-span to ensure the products you’re selling aren’t immediately producing waste.
  • If sourcing products that contain plastic, prioritize recycled plastic.
  • GROCERY BAGS: Continue to remind people about the importance of bringing their own reusable grocery bags. The best way to do this is by eliminating plastic bags from your stores altogether or, at the very least, charging for plastic bags. Click here for our Plastic Bags in Retailers resource guide.
Service Businesses
  • Does your office have single-use water bottles available for staff and/or meetings? Instead – source large jugs of local water or even better, simply drink the tap water. Bonus: less chance of drinking micro-plastics.
  • If you’re frequently hosting meetings with meals, ensure you have enough cups, plates, and cutlery on hand to avoid using disposables. If your meetings are infrequent, choose to rent dishes instead of purchasing disposables.
  • Catering an event? Ask about how they package their food. Request minimal/no packaging and if they’re not willing to accommodate, choose another place.
  • You know those swag items you love to hand out? How often do they actually get used? Find products that your clients are likely to use rather than trash. Consider giving people the choice between two items, allowing them to choose a product that fits their lifestyle and isn’t something they already have. Additionally:
    • Request minimal packaging
    • Prioritize items made from recycled materials
    • Quality > quantity
    • Choose “waste reducing” items such as reusable straws or take-out cutlery
Catering/Restaurant
  • Consider starting a “container take-back” program. How it works: you provide food in a reusable container and they return it after they’re done.
  • Provide jugs of milk/cream, jars of jam/peanut butter, and tubs of butter rather than individual packets.
  • Avoid wrapping individual items in plastic wrap. They’re likely all going to get unwrapped immediately anyway. Plus, plastic wrap makes it difficult to see your beautifully prepared food.
  • Is your client requesting dishes with their catering order? Have reusable options available. Talk with your client to ensure as little waste (if any) is produced as possible.
  • Reusable dishes are best, but we understand that reusable dishes aren’t always an easy solution. In this case, we suggest compostable dishes if you and/or your client have access to commercial compost pick-up. Compostable dishes will not breakdown in a backyard compost bin and cannot be recycled.
  • “Straws upon request.” Most people don’t need a straw with their drinks. Save money and the planet by ensuring you only provide straws to people who need them.

 

Have further questions about greening your business? Contact Bethany Daman in our Living Green, Living Well department by emailing lglw@greenactioncentre.ca. We will also be doing FREE 30 minute “Plastic Reduction In Your Business” consultations on March 29th between 10am and 2pm. In person at 303 Portage Ave. or online via Zoom. Email lglw@greenactioncentre.ca to request a meeting. These meetings are open to any staff and/or owners of Manitoba businesses.