Move to eliminate plastic waste could add $1 to cost of a take-out meal

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – As major chains and local restaurants start to switch out plastic straws and foam containers with more sustainable alternatives, industry groups say the extra cost of those alternatives is already being passed on to customers.

Starbucks is the latest chain to announce it will eliminate plastic straws across all its locations in the coming years, joining A&W, IKEA, and others, partly to comply with an impending ban on such products imposed by municipalities like the city of Vancouver.

Alex Fraser, VP of Western Operations with The Fifteen Group, a restaurant consulting firm, says there is some initial concern among businesses about the additional cost of eco-friendly alternatives.

Plastic straws, for example, cost around a penny apiece, whereas paper straws can cost a business 10 to 15 times more.

“I think consumers can expect that there are going to be definitely the potential of increases purchasing prices on certain items” in order to cover those additional costs, he says.

“We see typically the cost structure for a typical take-out container that may house a sandwich or a salad anywhere from 50 cents to a dollar.”

While higher packaging costs can pose a be a challenge for businesses, Fraser notes eco-friendly options are becoming more available all the time, which should push future prices down.

Joseph Richard Group, and the 22 Lower Mainland establishments under its banner, made the switch to recyclable packaging several years ago. CEO Ryan Moreno says the benefits of becoming more sustainable outweigh the costs.

“Staff on all levels are pretty engaged, they’re all very proud of it. We get compliments from guests all the time that they think it’s great that we’re doing that. So for me… that’s your win, that’s your benefit,” he says.

Fraser suggests local governments who want to impose product bans to benefit the environment could give businesses a break by offering incentives for eco-friendly practices.

Vancouver’s ban on plastic straws, foam cups, and foam take-out containers comes into effect on June 1, 2019.

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