KFC pledges to reduce single-use plastic in its restaurants

The company says all food packaging will be reusable by 2025

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Photo (c) davidhills – Getty Images

One by one, chain restaurants have pledged to cut the use of antibiotics, switch to cage-free eggs, and adopt other sustainability policies. Now, KFC is turning its attention to another environmental issue — plastic.

The company has pledged that by 2025, all plastic-based, consumer-facing packaging will be recoverable or reusable. KFC says it’s part of its long-term plan to implement a more sustainable packaging strategy in its restaurants.

Single-use plastic has become a major environmental problem because it usually ends up in the ocean, where it threatens marine life and even becomes part of the human food chain. Fast food restaurants, in particular, are major consumers of single-use plastic with their use of drink containers, utensils, and food packaging.

Because of their massive, worldwide scale, fast-food restaurants are a major contributor to plastic pollution. But that huge scale also holds the potential for reducing the problem when these companies adopt ways to limit the use of single-use plastic in their operations.

Real impact

“As a global brand that operates more than 22,000 restaurants in over 135 countries, KFC is in a position to have a real impact on how the industry approaches waste and packaging management overall,” said Tony Lowings, KFC’s CEO. “With environmental sustainability as a core aspect of how we do business, this commitment represents a public acknowledgment of the obligation we have to address these serious issues.”

A growing number of restaurant chains have stuck a toe in the plastic sustainability waters by pledging to eliminate plastic straws, a relatively small part of the problem. In many cases, local governments have forced the issue by requiring restaurants within their boundaries to switch to paper straws, which are readily available but more expensive.

McDonald’s is currently testing paper straws at some of its stores and Starbucks has pledged to make the switch by next year. Pepsico, the parent company of Pepsi, recently promised to make greater use of recycled plastic in its packaging.

Team effort

To meet its newly-set goals KFC said it is working with major suppliers and franchisees to identify alternatives to plastic that make sense. In addition to plastic straws, it will try to reduce the use of plastic in bags, utensils, and drink lids.

Plastic pollution is not just unsightly, it can have serious health consequences. Scientists have long known that materials used to make plastic, some of them toxic, can “leak” into the environment, even if the plastic itself doesn’t biodegrade.

Researchers estimate that about 20 percent of the plastic in the ocean comes from ships and platforms that are offshore. The rest gets blown into the ocean, washed out by tides, or comes from intentional garbage dumping. SOURCE

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Single Use Plastic Bans: What You Need to Know

 

Image result for single-use plastic bans

The discussion on single-use plastics is heating up across Canada. The federal government announced in June 2019 its intention to institute a nationwide ban by 2021 if re-elected this fall. Meanwhile, a growing number of provinces, cities, and towns have already banned certain single-use plastic products and the British Columbia Court of Appeal has now weighed in on a B.C. municipality’s authority to do such a thing. So what are some considerations that single-use plastic bans raise for businesses, consumers, and governments alike?

Background: Plastic Bans Becoming Increasingly Common

On June 10, 2019, the federal government announced its plan to ban a list of single-use plastics by as early as 2021 if re-elected. This comes in the wake of the European Union’s Parliament voting in March 2019 to ban several single-use plastic products on the same timeline. In addition, the federal government recently listed plastic microbeads on the Schedule 1 List of Toxic Substances in the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999, SC 1999, c 33.

Governments at the provincial and municipal level across the country have already imposed bans on items such as single-use plastic bags.

At the provincial level, Newfoundland and Labrador announced in April 2019 that it will become the second province behind Prince Edward Island to ban plastic shopping bags. At the municipal level, the list of communities that have banned plastic bags include dozens in Quebec, four in Manitoba, three in New Brunswick, and a quickly growing number in B.C. In July 2019, Jasper and Wetaskiwin became the second and third communities in Alberta, after the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo, to ban plastic bags. This much is clear: whether or not single-use plastic bans can effectively reduce the pollution associated with plastic products, they are becoming increasingly widespread.

Can Governments Ban Single-use Plastics?

An important question for governments proposing a ban, as well as for the businesses and consumers who will be affected, is whether such a ban is legal. In other words: can the government do that?

What does our Constitution say?

Our Constitution says that the federal government can enact laws in some topic areas, while the provincial government can enact laws in others. However, in the case of environmental protection, no level of government has exclusive jurisdiction.

The Supreme Court of Canada has made clear that both the federal and provincial governments can make laws on a specific environmental issue as long as they can connect that issue to a power granted to them in the Constitution. The appellate courts in Ontario and Saskatchewan confirmed this in their recent majority decisions that determined that the federal government could impose a national price on carbon (subject of course to further appeals to the Supreme Court).

What this means is that the federal government may often be able to connect an environmental issue to its power to legislate with respect to criminal law or matters of “national concern” under the “Peace, Order, and good Government” clause in section 91 of the Constitution. Provincial governments, on the other hand, can often legislate on environmental issues due to their authority over property and civil rights and matters of a local and private nature.

Importantly, municipal governments can also legislate on issues relating to the environment, as long as their respective provincial governments have authorized them to do so. A municipality can pass bylaws for any purpose that a province has the power over and has properly delegated to the municipality.

In the past, the Supreme Court of Canada has confirmed the ability of the town of Hudson, Ontario to restrict the use of pesticides within the town, while the Ontario Superior Court has struck down Toronto’s ban on the possession and sale of shark fin products.

Victoria’s Ban on Single-use Plastic Bags

Most recently, and specific to single-use plastics, the British Columbia Court of Appeal in the case of Canadian Plastic Bag Association v Victoria (City), 2019 BCCA 254 struck down Victoria’s ban on single-use plastic bags for being outside Victoria’s jurisdiction.

While Victoria argued that it could impose such a ban because of its authority to create bylaws relating to “business” under the provincial legislation that governs B.C.’s cities, the Court of Appeal found that the bylaw was in fact related to environmental protection. Bylaws relating to environmental protection require provincial approval in B.C. and because Victoria did not receive such approval, its ban on plastic bags was invalid.

This decision highlights the importance of knowing the limits of a government’s authority to impose laws and regulations, such as those that ban single-use plastics. This is important not only for the government seeking to enact laws that will achieve their intended results, but also for the businesses and consumers who stand to be impacted by new laws.

What Comes Next at the Federal Level?

A federal ban on single-use plastics remains speculative at this time. However, if a ban does become reality in the future, it will likely mirror current prohibitions seen elsewhere on plastic bags, straws, and cutlery.

The ban would likely impact the retail and restaurant industry, which uses items such as plastic bags, containers, and cutlery in its day-to-day operations, the oil industry, which provides the building blocks for resins used to produce plastic products, and the plastic producers themselves.

On the other hand, a ban could also be part of a larger plan that reduces waste management costs, lowers greenhouse gas emissions, and provides further financial benefits by redirecting a greater proportion of plastic waste away from landfills and into recycled materials.

Of course, whether a federal ban will be implemented as early as 2021 will likely depend on the outcome of this fall’s federal election. SOURCE