Working Together to Reduce Single Use Plastics at the Grand Theatre

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Working Together to Reduce Single Use Plastics at the Grand Theatre

Everyone has a role to play in reducing the amount of waste that goes to landfill.  It takes work but everything is easier when we work together.

Earlier this year, Council directed staff to explore ways to reduce single use plastics at two City-owned facilities, including the Grand Theatre and the INVISTA Centre to start.  Single-use plastics include items like water bottles, straws, cutlery, cups, stir sticks, grocery bags, coffee pods, take-out containers, food packaging and more.  Every day we hear more about how plastic is accumulating in our oceans and lakes, and getting harder to find buyers that can turn recycling into new products.  It’s a problem that’s hard to solve because plastics were invented, in part, to make life more convenient so the habits we’ve developed are hard to break.

Going to the theatre, like many other activities, generates a surprising amount of waste.  Each year, the Grand Theatre welcomes thousands of people who enjoy a drink, have a pop or buy candy.  We also hand out brochures and playbills that hopefully get recycled and people use paper towels that go in the garbage and end up in landfill.  The Grand Theatre might not be the worst offender but it never hurts to lead by example so we’re happy to be the first facility within the City of Kingston to move toward eliminating single use plastics.

Over the past six months, staff have researched what other performing arts venues are doing to reduce waste and we’ve installed fountain drink machines as a way to replace plastic pop bottles.  We’ve also started using compostable cups and paper straws and have eliminated snacks with plastic wrappers.  We’ve also replaced our garbage bins and the more immediately recognizable recycling bins with new containers specifically designed for gathering compostable cups from the bar and paper like playbills.  This has involved a steep learning curve for us and now the task ahead is to work with our patrons to help them, help us divert our waste away from landfills.

One of the biggest challenges in this moment is learning to tell the difference between traditional plastics made of petrochemicals and the newer plant-based plastics that look similar but that are fully compostable when disposed of with the help of a commercial composter.  For the first time, we have introduced an organic waste program at the Grand Theatre and all the cups being handed out at the bar are made of plant-based plastics so they are fully compostable.  So the trick now is getting people to put them in the green bin when habit says to put them in the blue box like you do with plastics at home.   

It won’t be an easy task but at the Grand Theatre our staff and volunteer ushers are ready to help patrons make the transition and we are excited about the move.  My colleague Dianne Zemba, the Grand Theatre Manager has been leading this work and has shared the following: “We have started to train our staff and our volunteer ushers to ensure that our audience members understand why this is important and where to place their waste at the end of the show.  It’s exciting to know the quality of the theatre experience will stay the same but that we will be reducing our waste to landfill significantly going forward.”

We’re also trying to reduce any waste at all!  The next time you visit the Grand Theatre don’t hesitate to ask for help and we also encourage you to bring a reusable water bottle we will gladly refill and we’re also offering coffee and tea for $1.00 (plus taxes) if you bring a reusable mug.  All other beverages will be served in sturdy cups that can be taken into the theatre and then composted at the end of the night using the green bins you’ll find in the lobby.  We also ask that you recycle your playbill and dispose of your paper towel in the green bins provided – those can be composted as well!

We’re excited to be making these changes and we hope you’ll enjoy the shows you see at the Grand Theatre even more knowing we’re working together to reduce waste to landfill.


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Colin Wiginton
Colin Wiginton
Cultural director

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