Real plates, cutlery and glassware are now being served at The Forks.
Three weeks into a soft rollout, there are a few specialty items — such as bento boxes — that still may be served on paper or plastic.
But within a month, every meal will be served on reusable plates, said Clare MacKay, vice-president of corporate and community initiatives for The Forks.
"People love it," MacKay said Tuesday.
"Whenever the move to paper plates and takeaway containers happened, it was for pure convenience, but it used to be that things were served on plates. So now, we’re coming almost full circle back to it.
"Tenants love it because their food looks better, and patrons love it because it feels like a dining experience."
Diners at The Forks seemed to be in agreement.
"It’s environmentally better, I love that. And it feels better to eat from a real plate," Katrin Bruckner said.
"It’s handy," Jude Asainayagam said. "If it’s paper, it won’t hold the weight," he said, motioning to his cheeseburger.
There’s another benefit: because the dishes are centrally sorted, staff can put all leftover food in the compost bin. It’s processed on-site and the finished compost gets used at The Forks, too.
"Our timing was pretty good," said Dave Pancoe, manager of special projects for The Forks. "It seems like it’s at a fever pitch of people’s awareness of plastics.
"Nothing is served at the market that we can’t compost," he said. That includes all 3,000 transactions — thousands of meals — every day.
Composting on-site will save The Forks an estimated $12,000 in garbage-removal costs each year.
It may actually make money by taking compostable materials from the University of Winnipeg, Inn at The Forks, and the Canadian Museum for Human Rights.
All the tenants will share dishes, washed by staff at The Forks at a dishwashing station installed last month. MacKay said staffing changes weren’t really needed, since there were already trays that had to be washed, but new staff have been hired to work at the outdoor patio at The Common.
It took some time to pick the right dishes to fit all the different types of food on offer — and make it look good — MacKay said.
The change to reusable dishware and composting leftovers is expected to divert one-third of the total waste at The Forks. MacKay said the remaining waste will be tougher to tackle, but the next steps will include looking at packaging and shipping materials.
"We’ll continue to adapt," she said.
Other Target Zero initiatives — listed on The Forks’ website — include using waste cooking oil to power diesel equipment used to ice the river trail.
"If you’re skating behind the ice resurfacer, it smells like French fries — or mini doughnuts, depending on the day," MacKay said.
Tessa Vanderhart is interested in everything, but especially local news, health policy and statistics.