Now that single-use plastic is banned under penalty of hefty fines in the metropolis, pilot projects for reusable containers are being rolled out in its restaurants and take-out food businesses. Starting with the emblematic avenue du Mont-Royal.

Supported by the administration of Mayor Valérie Plante, returnable container projects are gradually being rolled out on Mont-Royal Avenue and other downtown streets, including Saint-Denis Street and Saint-Laurent Boulevard, and in businesses in Griffintown, Saint-Henri and the Little Burgundy district. The reusable dishes come from the suppliers Retournzy coop and Cano in particular. And the volunteer restaurateurs are overseen by the Association of Commercial Development Companies of Montreal (ASDCM).

Disposable plates, trays, lids, utensils, straws, stir sticks, glasses and cups made of non-recyclable plastic have disappeared from the kitchens of Richard Cemé, chef and caterer of ready-to-eat Par Cemé on rue Garnier, a stone’s throw away. of stone on Mont-Royal Avenue.

“Before, I used to vacuum pack,” says the chef behind his counter where the scent of lamb keftas and curry balls mingle with the smell of still-warm carrot cake.

“I quickly realized that the vacuum process had no appeal for the environment,” he continues. So I started using recyclable containers. Then I started offering customers to bring their own dishes. Then, “so the returnable containers came naturally.”

Since they are microwave safe, the ready-to-eat business has turned to Cano containers. The service works much like BIXI self-service bikes: using an app. The customer has two weeks to return the dishes, free of charge. The chore of washing up falls to the merchants.

“I only do two things; I fill, I wash”, quips chef Cemé candidly.

In charge of ecological transition for the group of commercial development companies, Isabelle Bissonnette, an engineer specializing in the environment, explains that the challenge is to explain to restaurateurs that there are alternatives to single-use plastic. That there are “benefits on the wallet,” she argues.

“There is a movement, but we have to give the choice to the traders, to the people, she believes. A bit like plastic bags which have gradually disappeared from grocery stores. »

The other player that is positioning itself on the market offers stainless steel containers with silicone lids. This is Retournzy coop.

We see these containers appear in the Saint-Denis sector, in the Notre-Dame sector, at the Jean-Talon market, also at the École de technologie supérieure (ETS), to name a few. Retournzy coop’s business development coordinator, France Gosselin, believes that this new way of consuming will become part of our habits, but it will take patience. Much of the time.

“It’s unfortunate, but people have gotten used to throwing away their takeout containers. There is an awareness of the importance of reducing waste at source [to be developed]. People tell us our product is great, but they don’t want to put in the effort. Eventually, there will have to be a formal ban on single-use recyclables. »

Director of the Société de développement commercial (SDC) on avenue du Mont-Royal, Claude Rainville explains that one of the challenges will be to implement returnable containers at major grocers. According to him, it is more complicated, in particular because of the volume.

“The response is still very good among our independent traders,” he said. The main thing is to improve. We also need good political will on the part of elected municipal officials and the government. »

In Quebec, other municipalities have adopted regulations banning single-use plastic items in businesses, including Laval, Mascouche and Terrebonne. In Prévost, a small municipality of 14,000 inhabitants in the Laurentians, since July 2022 there has even been a fee, called “ecocontribution”, on the sale of single-use containers.

Initially, in Montreal, a pilot project was to be launched in the spring of 2020, but it was put on ice due to the pandemic, explains Ms. Bissonnette, project manager.