A&W Canada becomes first North American fast-food chain to ditch plastic straws

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      A&W Canada has become the first restaurant chain in North America to commit to eliminating plastic straws from its inventory.

      The North Vancouver–based fast-food company announced at the Vancouver Aquarium today (June 8) that it will replace plastic straws with biodegradable paper ones at all 928 of its locations across Canada by the end of 2018. The rollout of the paper straws, which the business says are compostable, sustainably sourced, and last up to three hours in a drink without breaking down, will begin as early as August.

      The move is expected to divert an estimated 82 million plastic straws from landfills every year.

      “Our guests really appreciate a lot of the steps we’ve taken in terms sustainability: using glass mugs and real plates and real cutlery,” Tyler Pronyk, A&W Canada’s director of distribution of equipment and packaging, told the Straight. “And certainly, they look to paper straws as that next step, and we’re proud to make that commitment for them.”

      From left, A&W Canada's Tyler Pronyk, Ocean Wise president Dr. John Nightingale, and National Zero Waste Council chair Malcolm Brodie, announced at the Vancouver Aquarium that the fast-food chain would eliminate plastic straws from its inventory.
      Lucy Lau

      The initiative is supported by nonprofit program Ocean Wise and the National Zero Waste Council, a Metro Vancouver–founded organization comprised of governments, businesses, and community-minded groups that advocates for a circular economy.

      Malcolm Brodie, mayor of the City of Richmond and chair of that council as well as Metro Vancouver’s zero waste committee, hopes that the introduction of paper straws at A&W Canada outposts will challenge other fast-food chains and restaurants to implement similar policies.

      “I think it will really start a lot of conversations as to what other companies can do,” he said. “Just think if this led to industry-wide change, having plastics replaced by paper. I really think we’d be getting somewhere.”

      A&W Canada’s announcement coincides with World Oceans Day and comes on the heels of the City of Vancouver’s decision to ban plastic straws and disposable food containers in the region from June 1, 2019. A city staff report submitted to council in May stated that approximately 57 million straws are used in Canada on a daily basis.

      Follow Lucy Lau on Twitter @lucylau.