Lyn Chen came home from high school one day and saw her mom washing a plastic spoon. Her automatic response was, 'why would she bother when they're disposable?'
But, after her mom explained that if they don't reuse it, it'll end up in the landfill, she reconsidered the need for plastic spoons at all.
Chen, who is an economics student at Queen's University, went on to co-found a company hoping to curb single-use plastic spoons by making them out of candy.
The Markham-based Candy Cutlery makes hard candy dessert spoons and small cups, which can be used either as ice cream dishes or shot glasses.
As of this weekend, the candy utensils and dishes are being sold at stores across the region, including at Kawartha Dairy locations in Newmarket, Orillia and Barrie, and Bean and Baker Malt Shop in Toronto.
"I hadn't seen a product like this before, and it did touch on a more environmentally-friendly way of dealing with single-use disposable items," said Brennan Anderson, co-owner of Bean and Baker Malt Shop.
The spoons are sold for $1 each at the counter, and the glasses come in boxes of four.
They're made the same way as a lollipop, but with a different mould, according to the company's co-founder and product developer Liyan Cai.
"For things like ice cream, desserts, it's harder to use a starch-based, toast-textured spoon," said Cai, a food science and marketing student at the University of Guelph.
"Hard candy is more stable, more durable, so you can use it to finish your entire dessert or entire ice cream, and still have the spoon intact, or without the spoon breaking."
The launch of these products comes at the same time the city is trying to reduce plastic waste. The solid waste management department of the city has been asked by council to look into alternatives to single-use plastic.
"Plastic straws was just one of the examples that was highlighted, but it is broader than just straws. It will look at all forms of single-use packaging, and those primarily made from plastic," said Vincent Sferrazza, director of solid waste management services with the city.
He said they may also consider how to reduce the waste from hot and cold drink cups and takeaway containers.
The city is planning to hold consultations with stakeholders starting in the fall to figure out what the options are, and what might be the best alternatives to plastic.
"We're certainly open to any options that stakeholders could also provide," said Sferrazza.
Bean and Baker Malt Shop has made a point of being environmentally conscious, according to Anderson, changing types of plastic to ensure it's recyclable, and using biodegradable straws. They offer metal spoons in their shop, and now candy ones, to avoid using plastic.
"We do have a very environmentally aware group of customers. A lot of younger kids have been taught much about the environment in school," said Anderson. And through them, he said he has received suggestions on how to make his business more sustainable.
Anderson said he tested out the candy spoons on some of his younger customers before deciding to order any. He said they reported that they might not get it all the time, but it was a step in the right direction toward mitigating plastic waste.
"The customers are going to decide for me whether this is a product that stays or goes," said Anderson.
"I hope it creates a dialogue and a bit of a mindset that we should be mindful of all the single-use packaging that we're using for all the convenience food that we're not making at home."
And that was the goal for Chen, to get people talking about the bigger picture.
"I saw that as both an opportunity as well as a chance to do something good. It's always been within me to help the environment and figure out sustainability," she said.