The Trudeau government has proposed plans to ban single-use plastics by the year 2021. Single-use plastics include not only straws, but cutlery, takeout containers and other items.
Those in the plastics industry may have worries about how this will affect their businesses, but those in support of the straw ban see both environmental and financial opportunities.
One Inspiration for the Ban
A YouTube video went viral in 2015, showing researchers pulling a plastic straw from the nostril of a sea turtle, clearly in discomfort, with blood trickling from its nostril. Viewers were saddened and angered. The turtle illustrated the consequences of plastic pollution and became a rallying point of the anti-plastic movement. People were now ready to support more eco-friendly plastic alternatives.
Innovators Take Action
Three innovators saw the need for alternatives to the plastic straws and other plastics. Here’s what they did:
Before the 2015 turtle video, Aimee Promislow could see the problem with plastics in her own kitchen. She wanted to do something but had difficulty selling her ideas to provide sustainable alternatives to plastic straws.
She was inspired to start a business that combined her love of making crafts in her studio in Vancouver and her desire to provide something useful and environmentally friendly.
In 2014, she started her own business, Glass Sipper, where she made and sold glass straws. Others could not see the potential of these glass straws, because awareness of the environmental problem was not yet mainstream. In her first year, she did not break even.
Consumers learned that plastic straws aren’t sustainable, and once they knew, they sought alternatives. After Starbucks announced they were going to phase out plastic straws, online sales at Glass Sipper rose. They went from supplying five stores to 70 within three months
Waterloo-based company Fenigo Inc. sells a variety of zero-waste lifestyle products such as lunchboxes and backpacks. Company founder Jana Campbell saw the opportunity to sell even more environmentally aware products. The company offers a choice of straws that are reusable bamboo, silicone, paper and metal. She saw a spike in demand after the turtle video.
Enviro Glass Straw Ltd. is a Vancouver Island-based company, where handmade straws are produced. Co-owner Leah Hayes has concerns about imported sustainable goods that have a cheaper price point than she can offer from her small, family-run business. She hopes that Canadians will forego these cheaper international imports and see the value of high-quality Canadian products and shop locally. Higher demand may eventually help Canadians save money when buying locally.
How Awareness and Policy Help Small Businesses
Awareness and government policy combined to allow conversations around how consumers and corporations can replace plastic items with sustainable alternatives and take action to end our dependence on plastic.
These examples show how small businesses in Canada were able to recognize a problem and work towards solving it so that there is a benefit to the environment and to themselves and it came about because of a plastic straw ban.