These are busy days for Brandon Leeds, co-founder and chief executive officer of SOFi Products.
The US-based company selling paper-based, plastic-free, compostable and biodegradable cups and straws has seen a surge in calls from food businesses in the runup to Dec. 20, when new regulations take effect in B.C.
The regulations are intended to address shopping bags, disposable food service accessories, food service packaging made of hard-to-recycle plastics and plastics that break down into microplastics come into effect.
“We are just seeing overall a huge increase from local businesses, from the larger chains, because they all have to switch to different products,” Leeds said.
Plastic shopping bags as well as single-use plastic utensils of any plastic type, including compostable, biodegradable and oxo-degradable, will be banned. Companies will also no longer be able to produce food-service containers out of Styrofoam; PVC and PVDC; as well as compostable, biodegradable and oxo-degradable plastic. Food service accessories including lids, sleeves and straws among straws will also be subject to new rules.
Environment Minister George Heyman announced the changes in July, giving businesses and residents of British Columbia about half of year to prepare, and Leeds’ company, which he co-founded with his brother, has recently signed agreements to supply paper-products to White Spot, Triple O’s and other food outlets including Circle K.
B.C., he added, is one of the company’s top markets, one reason being for its high sensibility for environmental issues.
“It’s the right step forward,” Leeds said of the measures as a whole. “We are not going to be able to go from where we are now to where we want to be in 10 years in an instant. It’s all about taking these incremental steps. That’s why plastic straw were banned. “
While that ban might have been a case of going after low-hanging fruits first, it was quick and sparked a necessary conversation, he said.
“Now that small change has led to larger legislation,” he said, adding that Canada as a whole has been at the forefront of reducing the use of plastics. “By doing this, it is also setting a precedent for the rest of the world, that they need to start acting as well.”
In fact, according to the guide prepared by SOFi and Restaurants Canada, B.C.’s new provincial single-use plastic rules exceed the scope of Ottawa’s single-use plastic prohibitions.
But if B.C., starting with many municipalities, has led the way, plenty of work remains ahead and Leeds is appealing to governments to write laws that send clearer signals about sustainability.
“So for example, they have banned compostable plastic products, biodegradable plastic products, but not plastic itself for certain products, the reason being is that compostable plastic and biodegradable plastic is not recyclable,” Leeds said. “But yet, only five per cent of waste in Canada is recycled every year.”
Leeds sees his company’s lid-free, water-coated cup, which decomposes after 180 days, as part of a larger trend toward more sustainable food service ware becoming available over time. “Solutions are coming,” he said. “There are other great solutions apart from ours that are being used in food service that are good for the environment.”
Leeds also addressed the often-heard complaint that sustainable, eco-friendly food service products provide a worse experience than their traditional counterparts. That too is changing, he said.
While Leeds acknowledged that they tend to cost more, he encouraged residents as well businesses to seek out long-term alternatives, because laws will continue to change in the future.