Plastic drinking straws are now a thing of the past at Kinny’s Sweet Retreat.
Renay Clermont, co-owner of the downtown Fort Saskatchewan cafe, has made the switch to paper straws just in time for milkshake and Italian soda season. The move should keep hundreds of plastic straws from going into the trash every month.
Clermont opened Kinny’s Sweet Retreat in October 2017. From the beginning she had her mind set on doing things differently. Having spent years working in food and retail management, she had seen first-hand the quantity of waste that comes with doing business.
“When I saw the volume of straws and plastics we put in the environment, it always bugged me,” she said, adding that the recycling programs she saw at work over the years were ineffective, never living up to their promise.
Not planning to stop at straws, Clermont is also working with her suppliers to find eco-friendly options for utensils, food packaging and containers that are a daily part of restaurant life.
“Eventually we see ourselves moving towards our utensils being cane sugar and bamboo. Our takeaway containers will be bamboo and cane sugar. And they're completely biodegradable,” she said.
Clermont, who plans to start phasing out plastic utensils and packaging by the end of May, said she is not bothered by having to spend money on the more costly biodegradable packaging.
“It's very easy to get dirt cheap products and throw them out there, but you have to also have some awareness of where they come from and what cost is associated with that. That's not just a dollar. And that's a big thing for me.”
Clermont said it breaks her heart to learn about the grim consequences of consumer plastic pollution. Like many people, she is saddened by the photos she sees online, images showing what happens when plastic debris makes its way into the world's oceans  – seabirds with stomachs full of plastic, a turtle with a plastic drinking straw embedded in its nostril.
She has also heard the discouraging statistics about plastic waste in Canada and globally.
The federal government reports that less than 11 per cent of plastics are recycled in Canada and that 8 million tonnes of plastic waste enter the oceans every year. According to a federal news release, by 2050 there could be more plastic in the ocean, by weight, than fish. The Ocean Legacy Foundation says that plastic debris causes the deaths of more than a million seabirds and 100,000 marine mammals every year.
The UK government recently announced a plan to ban single-use plastics, calling on other Commonwealth countries to follow suit. Clermont thinks the idea is a smart one. She also hopes other local businesses, big and small, will follow her lead in reducing plastic waste.
“At the end of the day, it's the right thing to do,” she said. “Sometimes the right thing to do just doesn't have a cost. It just has to be that way."

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