Business Information and Counselling, Frontenac Business Services
Canadian Food Inspection Agency is a regulatory agency that regulates everything from quality and safety standards of food production to labelling.
Kingston, Frontenac Public Health – The Ontario Health Protection and Promotion Act R.S.O. 1990, c.H.7, requires that anyone intending to operate a food premise within Ontario to notify your local public health agency.
Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs (OMAFRA) has tools and resources available for food and beverage producers on their site.
Sources of Financing and Funding
Frontenac Business Services – is a not-for-profit organization funded by the federal government to provide business information, counselling and flexible commercial financing.
Business Development Bank is a financial institution that provides business solutions to the food and beverage sector.
Farm Credit Canada lends money and provides other services to the food industry.
Hydro One – small business customers may be eligible for financial assistance.
Canada Dairy Commission – Matching Investment Fund for product development initiatives that help stimulate demand for Canadian dairy products and ingredients.
Canadian Institute of Food Science Technology – national association of food and beverage sector professionals.
Culinary Tourism Association – bridging the gap between the food & drink and the travel industry.
Food and Beverage Ontario is a not for profit organization dedicated to advancing the food and beverage industry in Ontario.
Food Bloggers Canada – was founded in 2011 and its goal is to promote and foster Canada’s food blogging niche and it may be a place to promote your product.
Ontario Craft Brewers is a trade association founded in 2003 with 80+ small independent brewers and has a vision of being a unified voice for the Ontario brewing industry.
Wine Growers Ontario – their role is to be the voice of Ontario’s wine industry
Royal Winter Fair – each year the Royal crowns dozens of champions in various food categories. To enter, visit royalfair.org.
SIAL Canada – is an international food and beverage innovation tradeshow and their website includes information on market trends, competitions, exhibitor lists and more.
Packaging waste has attracted considerable attention in recent years. Hot button issues include: single-use plastic packaging ending up in the environment or going to landfill; over-packaged e-commerce packages; and single-use takeout packaging skyrocketing during the pandemic. Whether you are a business selling packaged products, or a consumer buying them, here are a few points to consider on sustainable packaging:
Sustainability means many things to many people. While environmental considerations are obviously important, they must be thought of alongside socio-economic, cultural and at times political considerations as well. Here is a straightforward definition of sustainable packaging that reflects this holistic view:
“Sustainable packaging delivers the full value of the product contained within, and does so with the least amount of negative economic, environmental and social impact throughout its life cycle.”
When the full life cycle of a product and its packaging is considered (from material extraction through to disposal), packaging represents only about 5-10% of the total environmental impacts. A critical role of packaging is to protect the product, and help prevent the higher impacts associated with product loss. For example, non-recyclable plastic packaging on our food can be frustrating and seem unnecessary, but if the cucumber or ground beef goes bad, the environmental impacts are far greater than those generated by the packaging. So, we need to be careful as we eliminate and reduce packaging, and avoid being ‘penny wise, pound foolish.
Reduce, Reuse, Recycle took root after the first Earth Day in 1970, and is echoed fifty years later in the Ellen MacArthur Foundation’s 2021 Guide to Packaging Solutions’ hierarchy of elimination, reuse, and material circulation. Circular Economy thinkers have expanded the 3 Rs, to include important practices such as refuse, repair and remanufacture. A good starting point question: How can one reduce material and energy needs while maintaining package functionality? Reductions in these areas mean reductions in key impact categories like greenhouse gas emissions. Reducing toxicity and contaminants is also a priority. We can often apply multiple ‘Rs’. For example, applied in the right situation a reusable packaging solution may be the best way to reduce overall environmental impacts. The best single-use packaging solution is often one that has maximized reduction, and then applied best practices for inclusion of recycled content, and design for recyclability.
Consumers often link attributes of ‘recyclable’ or ‘compostable’ with increased sustainability. Unfortunately, these are often not reliable indicators of reduced environmental impacts. These particular attributes refer to what one does with the package upon disposal — recycle it or compost it. However, the majority of environmental impacts of single-use packaging are in the material extraction, package manufacturing and transportation stages. So, a steel canister used to package coffee may be recyclable, but it requires a lot of material and is heavy. While the can may be recycled, it has much higher environmental impacts — including greenhouse gas emissions — than a non-recyclable pouch used for the same amount of coffee.
Bioplastics is a complicated field which includes compostable plastic packaging. While this type of packaging may intuitively appear more sustainable, it presents a number of challenges. First of all, compostable plastic packaging may have higher impacts than conventional materials. A main reason is that renewable sources often rely on industrial agricultural processes, which themselves require fossil fuels and energy to produce, as does the manufacturing of the packaging itself. Further, consumers are often confused as to how to dispose of compostable plastic packaging, so it ends up in all three streams: organics, recycling, and garbage. This creates problems, and regardless, virtually all this type of packaging in Canada is removed and sent to landfill, where it has a good chance of generating methane, a potent greenhouse gas. Claims like ‘compostable’ or ‘biodegradable’ have little meaning unless they are substantiated by a valid certification, such as BPI or BNQ.
An important finding of a 2021 United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) Report is that ‘single-use’ is more problematic than ‘plastic’ when considering single-use plastics. There is no question that we have major problems associated with plastic packaging leaking into our environment, which must be addressed. However, before we rush to ‘break free from plastic’, it’s important to recognize that in many applications (well beyond packaging) plastic provides major environmental impact reductions when compared with alternatives. This point reinforces the idea of going ‘upstream’, in order to identify the best solutions that reduce material and energy use, as well as human and ecosystem toxicity and degradation.
The Sustainable Packaging Research, Information and Networking Group (SPRING) offers a Sustainability Roadmap and other tools, including a guide to sound science.
The Canada Plastics Pact (CPP) brings together stakeholders from across the packaging value chain to rethink the way we design, use, and reuse plastic packaging to realize a circular economy for plastic in Canada. Environment and Climate Change Canada (ECCC) is a CPP partner, and relevant federal publications include Phase 2 of the Canada-wide Action Plan on Zero Plastic Waste, and this related Discussion Paper.
Elimination and Reduction
- Search for ‘elimination’ in the Ellen MacArthur’s online Guide to Packaging Solutions
- This United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) report ‘Addressing Single-Use Plastic Products Pollution using a Life Cycle Approach’ is a good place to begin.
- Upsteam is devoted to reuse, and their Indisposables Podcast is worth a listen.
- This LinkedIn Blog is also a helpful starting point.
Material Circulation (Recycling and Composting)
- The Canada Plastics Pact has adopted the Consumer Goods Forum’s Golden Design Rules to improve the recyclability of Plastics Packaging.
- Eco-Entreprises Quebec (EEQ) provides a recent report on compostable and biodegradable packaging, including key issues and a set of recommendations.
- The Department of Environmental Quality in Oregon conducted research on how well four common packaging attributes (biobased, recycled content, recyclable and compostable) correspond with the reduction of negative environmental impacts.
- PAC Global offers online resources, webinars and courses on packaging sustainability and circularity.
- Andrew is Principal of Planetary Boundaries Consulting, specializing in packaging sustainability for small businesses.