Local businesses take the lead on reducing single-use waste

On July 1, Edmonton’s Single-use Item Reduction bylaw came into effect. It’s a big milestone in Edmonton’s waste reduction journey, but it will also mean changes to how many businesses serve customers and deal with waste. 

“Single-use items like bags, cups and utensils represent a major source of preventable waste, with more than 450 million of them ending up in the landfill or recycled every year” says Alison Abbink, Waste Reduction Lead with the City of Edmonton. “The good news is we know that change is possible.”

Looking locally, there are many businesses who have already successfully implemented changes to help reduce single-use items. Lesley Gruhn, owner of Anvil Coffee House, is just one example.

Coffee tastes better in a ceramic mug

For over six years, Anvil Coffee House has been serving the residents of Ottewell their morning coffee in a disposable, reusable or ceramic cup. For Lesley, reducing waste goes hand-in-hand with running a small business.

“I started becoming more interested in reducing single-use waste four years ago,” says Gruhn. “I realized how much waste a small business creates, and how small changes can really add up to make a big difference.”

Customers visiting Anvil are able to bring their own reusable cups, drink in-house from ceramic mugs and even bring in reusable containers to buy their beans in bulk. 

“We’ve had really positive feedback from customers. It really makes a difference that they can bring their own cup,” says Gruhn. “Beyond reducing waste, customers just love the experience of drinking out of reusable cups. Coffee tastes better in a ceramic mug.”

Customers enjoy coffee out of ceramic mugs.

Doing it safely

A key part of the bylaw requires businesses to have a plan to safely accept customers’ reusable cups. Thankfully, Anvil follows three easy steps to keep customers safe:

Customers hold onto their lids and put their reusable cups on the counter.

Baristas make the drink in one of Anvil’s metal cups.

Baristas pour the drink into the reusable cup without making contact.

“Customers can see the precautions we take to keep them safe,” says Gruhn. “It makes a big difference when they know that there’s no room for contamination.”

Lesley Gruhn is the owner of Anvil Coffee House in Ottewell.

Benefits to businesses

“When creating this bylaw we looked to municipalities across the country to find solutions that work not only for the environment, but for businesses,” says Abbink. 

Here are a few key changes in Edmonton’s bylaw, and how they can benefit both businesses and the environment:

Change: Businesses are required to serve dine-in beverage orders in reusable cups, and accept clean reusable customer cups for takeout.

Benefit: Reusable cups can save businesses about 20 cents per drink served. While disposable cups are still available for take-out orders, allowing customers to bring their reusables will cut down on the amount of single-use cups going out the door.

Change: Plastic shopping bags are banned. A minimum fee has been set of 15 cents for paper and $1 for new reusable bags.

Benefit: The minimum fee for paper and reusable shopping bags will help encourage customers to bring their own bags, and offset the higher cost of paper and reusable bags compared to plastic.

Change: Accessories like straws, cutlery and pre-packaged condiments are available by request only.

Benefit: Not all customers need or use accessories. When accessories are automatically included with every order, they may end up in the landfill without being used even once. By only providing accessories when a customer asks, it will reduce unnecessary waste as well as product costs for businesses, saving them money. 

These changes are projected to reduce the amount of single-use waste by 10 percent over the next two years, and 20 percent over the next four.

A customer puts a reusable mug into their bag.


“The City is here to help businesses make this adjustment, with online resources and in-person outreach,” says Abbink. “We can also look at the success that countless local businesses like Anvil Coffee are having in reducing waste, as a reminder that change is possible.”

Businesses and customers can visit edmonton.ca/SingleUse for more information.

Editor’s note: the pic at the top of the post shows Lesley Gruhn, owner of Anvil Coffee House, pouring coffee into a reusable mug.