Single-use plastics ban goes into effect in Lanark County on July 1

A ban on single-use plastics will begin this week in one Eastern Ontario County, and some businesses have already jumped on board.

"We're making our July 1 ban compliance voluntary, where we're really going towards this as an opportunity to educate, to bring awareness, to try to work with our businesses," said Christa Lowry, Lanark County Warden and Mississippi Mills Mayor.

"Climate action, it's a major priority for the county and one of our goals is to reduce plastics for single-use plastics, and the reason for that is we are reducing waste in our landfills. We're going to be reducing methane, we're going to be reducing carbon, which is a major source of greenhouse gases," added Lowry. 

The county says the plan aligns with that of the federal ban on single-use plastics, set to come into effect at the end of the year. They hope businesses and residents will change their habits, and use alternatives to plastic straws and take-out containers whenever possible.

"Certainly, plastic bags and straws are not the end of the single-use plastics, there's a long list of them," added Lowry. "What we're encouraging to eliminate the use of is only a portion of what the federal government is putting into play at the end of this year."

Lowry says some businesses throughout the county have already stepped up and put practices into place before July 1, which is encouraging.

"As their plastic supply runs out, they're moving to alternatives, whether it's boxes or whether it's paper bags," Lowry said, adding the county has also made up 'Bright Your Own Bag" stickers for businesses to use and place on their doors and windows.

Temple's Sugar Bush in Ferguson Falls began to reduce its plastic use in 2020.

"We eliminated all the plastic straws, went to paper. We've gone to clamshell containers that are compostable, made out of pulp," said Jamie Fortune. "No more Styrofoam around."

Fortune says while the switch was a bit more expensive, it was an easy one for the maple syrup business and wedding venue to take.

"If you were forced to stop using something and you couldn't find another article to replace it, that's a problem. But at this point, no, we can find other products to use to substitute," Fortune said.

He understands some of those costs could be passed on to customers, but he says when running a business, transparency is key.

"Get your pencil out, figure out what that (cost) is," said Fortune. "Obviously, you have to include it in the bottom, in your pricing for your customers and your customers, as long as you communicate and explain it, I think they'll embrace it and accept it because they're as interested in a healthy county and environment as you are."

He added the business did not rely heavily on plastics in the past, as their bottling production uses glass bottles.

"There's a long history here at Temple's about conservation and stewardship, and when Charlie Temple, the founder, built this restaurant, he built it with a view that we would reuse everything," said Fortune. "So we've been washing China and cutlery and glassware since the beginning of operations at the restaurant, and very, very little plastic has been in play."

Fortune said he is also working on a pilot project with the Lanark County Maple Syrup Association to recycle the miles of food-grade plastic tubing that runs throughout the sugar bush to collect sap.

"We use it, install it, and use it for 20 to 30 years, but it goes through on life cycles," Fortune said. "So once it's been used, what do you do with it? We're just getting into the original opening steps of this thing to figure it out, how to handle it, how to process it, where to take it."

"Lanark County has a fine reputation, it's a beautiful place," he added. "The county taking the step of this kind of leadership in conservation, it's symbolic. It's voluntary, it's symbolic, but I think it's important and it sends the right message about the values of the county."

Thirty minutes southeast in Smiths Falls at Modern Tymes Health and Bulk Foods, proprietor Heather Mitchell-Adams has set up a jar bank for people to use in her store, eliminating the need for those tiny plastic bags.

"People will donate containers to us that are in good condition and have lids on them and can be used for bulk items," said Mitchell-Adams. "We wash and sanitize them and then we'll weigh them for you first and that way we're just charging you for what's going inside."

She also sells reusable bags and uses cardboard boxes as an alternative for people to use. Mitchell-Adams agrees with the single-use plastic ban put in place by the county.

"I think it's a good step forward," she said. "We're never going to start developing new habits if we don't have that little push to give up some of these, the ones that are more considered convenience than anything else, really."

Mitchell-Adams said it's also a good idea if you run a business to speak with your suppliers to reduce single-use plastics.

"Sometimes they may have resources available to them that they just haven't implemented because they're worried about additional cost to their customers, meaning the business owners, not knowing if they'd be willing to accept that extra bit of cost or not," Mitchell-Adams said.

"You don't need to start overnight and do everything, pick one thing," she added. "If it's just single-use plastic or it's just the coffee that you go to get somewhere in the morning, taking one from home instead or bringing that reusable shopping bag with you, making one habit is a big deal."

"As one person, you might think you're not making a big deal, but there's lots of people that think that. So what if they all just picked one thing?" Mitchell-Adam's said.

Lowry added another thing the county is doing is working towards eliminating plastic water bottles in municipal facilities.

"We haven't got there yet, we're working towards it," she said. "We want to work with all of our partner municipalities, all the lower tiers, to make sure that we're able to do this in a way that everybody can participate, make sure that there's water bottle filling stations and whatnot in place so that we can be successful, and that's absolutely another way we can drive down the use of single-use plastics."

More information on the voluntary ban can be found on the Lanark County Climate Action Facebook page or the county website.

"We all have a role in making sure that we get there with reducing plastics," Lowry added. "This isn't a problem in Lanark County. It's a problem across the whole country, across the world, so we all have a part to play. We're pretty encouraged with the momentum that is starting to get rolling here as we move to July 1."