Recipe Unlimited to phase out plastic straws at its 19 brands by 2019


TORONTO — Diners at some of Canada’s largest restaurant chains might notice something a little bit different about their drink orders in the coming months.

Restaurant giant Recipe Unlimited Corporation, formerly known as Cara Operations, and its 19 brands will be ditching plastic straws in August in favour of compostable and biodegradable paper straws by the end of March 2019.

The company, which owns brands such as Harvey’s, Swiss Chalet, Kelsey’s and New York Fries, joins a growing group of Canadian restaurants and international food corporations that are phasing out the plastic drinking implements. In early June, quick-serve brand A&W Canada said it would soon switch to paper straws, while Ikea Canada promised to phase out plastic straws by 2020. Plenty of local bars and dining establishments followed suit.

McDonald’s also announced in June that it will switch to paper straws at all its locations in the United Kingdom and Ireland, and test an alternative to plastic ones in some of its U.S. restaurants later this year.

The shift comes amid global pressure from environmentalists demanding restaurants switch to compostable options in an effort to stop wildlife from getting stuck and injured by plastic and to prevent the material from littering coastlines and green spaces.

Experts say Canadians use about 57 million straws a day, but less than 20 per cent are recycled. They often recommend paper, metal or wood straws as alternatives.

“Our goal is to enrich life in Canada…and that extends beyond our restaurants and guests, to our oceans, wildlife and environment,” said Frank Hennessey, Recipe Unlimited’s chief executive officer in a statement. “Straws are just one component of the work we’re undertaking to eliminate single use plastics from our supply chain and shift to recyclable or compostable materials wherever possible.”

While plastic straw bans are being championed by environmentalists and restaurants alike, they have also generated concerns because some people with disabilities say they need them and worry that sweeping bans will have unintended consequences.

Still, many restaurant brands appear to be moving ahead with phasing out the plastic implements.

Recipe Unlimited, which has 1,382 restaurants, says compostable and biodegradable straws will automatically be provided with drink orders at its quick serve brands, including the Burgers Priest and St-Hubert. Paper straws will be available on request at its full-service restaurants like the Pickle Barrel, The Keg and Milestones.

Even before Recipe Unlimited’s announcement, municipalities and international governments were paying increasing attention to the impact of straws.

Vancouver recently put forward a proposal pushing servers to ask customers if they want a straw, instead of automatically delivering one with drink orders.

British Prime Minister Theresa May has also eyed a ban on plastic straws, cotton swabs and stir sticks, while prodding other nations to follow suit.

Canada has yet to make a similar commitment.


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Tara Deschamps, The Canadian Press