Cardboard bread clips are beginning to appear on grocery shelves across Canada, after a Quebec manufacturer made the decision to ditch plastic.
KLR Systems produces millions of plastic bread clips a year, destined to tie the knot on some of Canada's biggest bread brands. However, the fasteners were not recyclable.
"All the plastic we produce here ends up in landfills," said Nicolas Hamel, the president of KLR Systems, which is located in Saint-Pie, Que., in the province's Montérégie region.
Even if the clips themselves are small, their effect on the environment isn't: Hamel said the amount of plastic that would come in and out of the factory was staggering. Every few weeks, there would be trucks filled to the brim with plastic, he said.
It pushed him to try to find a more sustainable way, leading to the new clips made from recycled cardboard.
"Not only is it recyclable, but if it ever inadvertently ends up in the trash, it's already better because it's compostable," he said.
Two production lines are now producing the cardboard versions to the tune of four to five million a day.
32 elephants worth of plastic a year
The Bimbo company, which produces several brands of bread including Pom, Bon Matin and Villaggio, have already started adopting the new clips and are gradually appearing on their products in grocery stores.
"The bread clips we have just launched on the market will allow us to reduce our use of single-use plastic by more than 200 tonnes a year, which is equal to 32 adult elephants," said Laurence Vallerand, a spokesperson for Bimbo Canada.
But Hamel said it wasn't easy to convince companies to go green. He said some workers in factories have been working with the same equipment and tools for decades.
"It's a lot of work to convince people to change their habits," he said.
But the durability of plastic, which takes hundreds of years to break down, is irrelevant to bread, Hamel said, since it has such a short shelf life.
The regional environmental council for the Estrie region, which is based in Sherbrooke, Que., about an hour away from KLR Systems, praised the company's move.
"I think companies are starting to make these kinds of changes, because the image of being environmentally-friendly is increasingly popular, thankfully," said Jacinthe Caron, the organization's general manager. "Let's hope it won't just be a trend, that it's here to stay."
However, she says there's still room for improvement since the bread clips, even if made out of cardboard, can only be used once, she explained.
Karel Ménard, executive director of the Quebec Coalition of Ecological Waste Management, agreed that single-use isn't the way to go.
He acknowledged that cardboard clips are better than plastic ones, but he said they are still likely destined for landfills since they are too small to be recycled through curbside collection.
He said companies should ditch the single-use clips entirely.
"Why couldn't we make a plastic bag closed with a knot and sold this way and then, at home, [we as consumers] use and reuse our bread clip, for instance?" he said.