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Noodles replace single-use plastics at popular coffee shop

Pasta an environmentally-friendly alternative to traditional stir sticks

The McIntyre Coffee Shop is creating a stir in environmentally-friendly circles.

The eatery in the McIntyre Community Centre, and its sister restaurant at the Timmins Victor M. Power Airport, has made some major green changes. Instead of using plastic stir sticks for coffee and tea, they are using pasta noodles.

“We had a meeting with a city councillor and a Timmins environmental organization, and it became clear just how much items aren’t being recycled,” said Michael Duciaume, co-manager of the two restaurants.

“When we talk about plastic, when they are being used for food items and whatnot, they can be recycled. But people cannot just toss everything in the recycling bin. The plastic waste has been substantial and we even see it here. Nothing goes into recycling bins. Everything goes into garbage cans.

“We decided that we wanted to reduce plastic waste and go towards more environmentally-friendly products. Even if it has to be biodegradable, or something that’s going to break down, rather than recyclable, that’s OK too.”

The switch to pasta stir sticks was inspired by a pair of sources.

“I know that it is something they use in Italy,” Duciaume said. “My mom and her entire family are Italian. But I actually saw it in a coffee shop down south. They were using pasta and it does the one thing that a stir stick is supposed to do. So, why not use this instead?

“It’s just a regular spaghetti noodle. Something sturdy enough to stir the coffee. We still have wooden stir sticks in case someone is allergic to gluten.”

More than just the stir sticks have been switched to make both restaurants greener.

“We’re looking at a lot of biodegradable products. We found some forks, knives and cutlery products that look like plastic and feel like plastic but are biodegradable and compostable,” he said. “It’s pretty interesting because you think if they breakdown they wouldn’t be as sturdy and strong. But you would think it’s plastic.

“The other thing is we’re using paper straws for most of our drinks. But we can’t use them for slush and milkshakes. So, we found a biodegradable, compostable straw that looks exactly like plastic, but it’s compostable.”

Duciaume said they have been looking to move away from the use of single-use plastics for some time.

“We had been talking about moving towards more environmentally friendly products for a while,” he said. “A paper cup used to be a cheap cup. If you went towards an insulated cup, it was a little more expensive than a paper cup. Now that there’s a movement, paper cups are double or triple the price.

“We had to find something without increasing our prices, something to move towards other than plastic.”

For the most part, customers at The Mac and at the airport are appreciative of the restaurants’ efforts to be more environmentally friendly.

He hopes other local businesses will make similar changes.

“Everyone seems to be happy about it. They think it’s pretty quirky and a little different,” Duciaume said. “There have been a few complaints, like ‘my son can’t use the stir stick as a straw.’ But I think there’s a bigger picture to consider.

“We hope that everyone (other restaurants) will agree with us and get on board with this movement. I know that, sure, you can’t drink out of pasta, but anything that helps reduce plastic waste is great.”

The McIntyre Coffee Shop is located at 85 McIntyre Rd., within the McIntyre Community Centre. It is open daily from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Visit them online or find them on Facebook.