A downtown perspective on how it’s faring
By Brittney MacDonald, Life & Style Editor
It’s no secret that Vancouver is trying to phase out single-use plastics. In an effort to meet a zero-waste goal by 2040, the distribution of plastic straws and foam take-out containers will officially be banned on June 1. To prepare for this major overhaul, many companies and restaurants have already made the switch to paper straws—a fully biodegradable alternative. However, “many” doesn’t mean “all,” and some people are obviously finding it difficult to adapt to this change.
As someone who lives downtown and is an avid environmentalist, I am proud that Vancouver will be the first major Canadian city to take this big step. I’ve found that companies and restaurants catering to a young adult demographic have embraced this change and swapped out their single-use plastics for paper almost immediately. The places that seem to be having the hardest time are fast food chains and small, independent services. For the independent services, I assume it is because of backstock—they already have a lot of the straws purchased and are currently trying to just use them up—or the price difference. Yes, paper straws do cost more, but so does everything else in Vancouver. Forgive me if I sound a bit jaded.
The fast food and franchise companies I have a harder time accepting. Places like McDonald’s, Megabite, and Burger King have yet to make the change. Why, you may ask? Good question. Beyond saving a dollar until the very last minute, there’s also distribution to think about. As I said before, Vancouver will be the first Canadian city to ban plastic straws. This means that all those franchises that have a regular distribution protocol will now have to revamp that system to accommodate the law. For something that sounds so simple, it really throws a wrench in their well-oiled machine. Not that it isn’t a well-deserved or worthy wrench. Again, my attitude towards this problem is not very sympathetic.
Compliance breeds stagnation.
What I mean is that just because something is one way, doesn’t mean it can or should stay that way forever. This seems to be a difficult concept for some people to wrap their heads around. As I said before, I am an environmentalist—so I am used to having to ignore certain people when they complain about bike lanes and recycling. My newest pet peeve, however, is having to hear customers yell at or complain to servers that they didn’t get a straw with their drink. Honestly? I try not to be ageist or classist, but when I turn around to see from whom this ruckus is being broadcast, it’s usually someone in their forties or older, or it’s someone who is toting around a bag that could pay half my rent for a month. There needs to be a line drawn. At what point does a mild inconvenience to you become greater than preserving the ocean for future generations?
If every person in Vancouver said, “Well, one straw won’t make a difference,” instead of embracing this new change—you’re right, it wouldn’t. I’m kind of hoping people come to their senses though and realize that that one straw does make a difference when you multiply it by the city’s population. Personally, I look forward to June 1.