In April, PennEnvironment and Pennsylvania House Democrats announced a set of proposals that would tackle litter and pollution issues by charging a 2-cent non-reusable plastic bag fee, creating a 5-cent beverage bottle and can deposit program and restricting the availability of plastic straws.
Millvale business owners Danielle Spinola of Tupelo Honey Teas, Jeff Carr of Yetter’s Candy and Jennifer Cohen of Lincoln P&G Diner aim to combat environmental issues close to home through the Millvale Sustainable Packaging Initiative launching this summer.
The program involves local businesses providing compostable or reusable straws, to-go cups and clamshell containers used for food like sandwiches, pancakes and salads.
Spinola, who is spearheading the initiative, said the issue for participating business owners is cost, but that the program seeks to use cooperative purchasing power to reduce individual fees.
“There’s still a little extra cost, but it’s something like 20 cents. And the idea is to say to businesses, ‘If you raise your prices a quarter, your patrons aren’t necessarily going to feel that pain, right? An extra quarter isn’t going to hurt too much. You aren’t going to lose your profit margin, and you’ll be OK,” she said.
“Anything that I can do to help eliminate some of those chemicals, more or less, going into the garbage, is my goal,” Carr said.
Millvale food service industry participants include: Duncan Street Dinners, Sprezzatura, Bar 3, Tupelo Honey Teas, Yetter’s Candy and Lincoln P & G Diner. Hahn Funeral Home & Cremation Services Inc. plans to use the program’s cups. Etna’s The Shiny Bean Coffee & Tea also plans to join.
She said the Millvale Sustainable Packaging Initiative is especially relevant within the borough because decreasing packaging waste could decrease Girty’s Run pollution during floods.
Spinola, Carr and Cohen plan to use a $5,000 New Sun Rising Vibrant Communities Grant for purchasing packaging and educating the community about the program at events and through social media.
“At some point over the summer, I’m looking to have a meeting with the employees where there’s going to be a few things that we touch on, that being one of them,” Carr said of explaining sustainability’s importance to his employees. “Hopefully it kind of filters down (to the customers).”
To research the project, the cohort met with environmental nonprofits Pennsylvania Resources Council and Sustainable Pittsburgh, and Christina Neumann, apoidea beekeeper and architect and with a sustainable design focus.
After discussion, the cohort decided to use paper compostable cups, straws and clamshells devoid of the interior coating found inside many paper containers that makes them only commercially compostable.
Spinola said that she is successfully composting the unlined paper clamshells firsthand in her Tupelo Honey Teas backyard.
“We’re going to come up with alternative ways to get rid of their clamshells or paper cups, and we’re going to offer options, like, you could use them as planters or Abbi (Beddall, teaching artist, clerk) at the (Millvale Community) Library is going to make homemade paper with some of them,” she said.
Another option for customers is to purchase reusable containers for use at all participating locations.
For example, a collapsible, dishwasher-safe beverage container contains a sleeve that would feature a participating venue’s logo, a reusable straw and marks denoting ounce measurements making for easy beverage pours at bars or other establishments.
A reusable clamshell also is planned. Spinola and Carr said that participating businesses would offer patrons using the reusable containers discounts.
Likewise, the businesses would donate items to a Millvale gift basket and customers opting into the initiative could enter to win quarterly drawings.