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As Toronto continues to move towards in its city-wide black plastic ban, more cafes and restaurants are choosing to eliminate black coffee cup lids. This past April, Balzac’s Coffee Roasters in Liberty Village became another establishment to go green by switching from black plastic to white.

Though the classic black plastic aesthetic has been a favourite among Toronto-based cafes for decades, the decision has been an environmentally damaging one for the city. Though some plastics are recyclable, in Toronto, black plastics are not recyclable and are thereby encouraged to be thrown out in the garbage. Why this type of plastic is unrecyclable is because, as City government has stated, it cannot be sorted at the region’s existing recycling facilities and beyond this, if it was able to be sorted, there is virtually no market to sell it as a material.

At the same time that Toronto cafes are being given this news, the City continues to be under pressure to move towards more environmentally-friendly standards. There are even some pushing a zero waste commitment – which would mean Toronto reducing its waste to nothing. To accomplish this, targeting single-use non-recyclable plastics is a part of that. Just think about all the black plastic coffee lids that are being provided every day in Toronto for single-use. Needless to say, there are thousands being tossed in the garbage every day. This might not be the case for long however, as cafes and restaurants such as Balzac’s continue to switch to recyclable alternatives.

Consumers may not even know how damaging black plastic is, with evidence showing many Torontonians continuing to put black plastic single-use coffee lids into their recycling. Sadly, all this does is contaminate the recycling. There may also be some confusion due to some residents believing black plastic to be recyclable, as there is a market for it in some cities. That said, the lack of demand for black plastic has continued to lessen over the years in part due to increasing regulation. Today, in a city like Toronto, this means single-use black plastic to be as good as garbage.

Thankfully, black plastics have already been phased out in numerous cafes and restaurants, including Starbucks, Tim Hortons, McDonald’s, and grocery chains across North America. As more Liberty Village small businesses, cafes, and restaurants continue to switch to more environmentally-friendly alternatives, like Balzac’s has, there’s no reason that our community cannot one day be free from dangerous non-recyclable single-use plastics.

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Jason LeBlanc

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