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Zero Plastic Waste
Gros Morne Initiative
2020 - 2022

Moving the Region Towards a Circular Economy
Promoting a Circular Economy

This project takes a look at the full life cycle of plastic, from the point it is made to the moment we find it discarded, so we can target specific sources of plastic litter and debris. Understanding plastic use and waste, leakage points of plastic, and the plastic products that are particularly problematic for the region, is invaluable to finding alternatives and strategies to replace them. This robust, 2-year initiative is the first and only of its kind in the region, and the province!

The Zero Plastic Waste Gros Morne Initiative has four key objectives:

  1. Gather baseline data to understand the plastic waste being generated or found, in the region.

  2. Collaborate with the Gros Morne Region to raise awareness on impacts to coastal communities and the ocean that supports them.

  3. Develop policies, procedures and programs that interested municipalities, businesses and agencies can adopt to reduce plastic use and waste in the region.

  4. Support the reduction of unnecessary SUP and test "Re-use, Refill, or Rot" programs at various businesses in the food service and tourism sector.

AHOI focused largely on the tourism sector in this initiative because it plays a prominent role in driving the region's economy. The region is home to fewer than 4000 people, boasts a National Park and UNESCO World Heritage Site, and hosts approximately 250,000 visitors each tourism season. With the influx of visitors comes the increased need for food and other services to accommodate them. The potential for SUP to make its way into the economy is high, but so too is the potential for taking impactful, positive actions that benefit the businesses, communities, region and beyond!

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AHOI is one of 14 organizations across Canada to receive funding from Environment and Climate Change Canada through its Zero Plastic Waste Initiative. This nationally-supported project is designed to uphold our global commitments under the Oceans Plastics Charter and get us one step closer to ensuring all plastics produced in our economy are completely recoverable by 2030.

Zero Plastic Waste Initative Goal

Partners and volunteers working together to clean and audit waste at a beach in the Gros Morne region. This beach is a "collector beach" meaning litter and debris is easily trapped there.

Zero Plastic Waste Initiative Partners

Although plastic pollution is a global crisis, no place is immune to its effects. Studies show that approximately 80% of plastic waste that ends up in our ocean comes from land-based sources. This is the basis for AHOI's goal of creating a circular economy where businesses and communities are responsible for their plastic waste and helping to keep it out of our ocean. The key to achieving this goal is working together.

For the Zero Plastic Waste Gros Morne Initiative, AHOI partnered with Grenfell Campus - Memorial University, the Gros Morne Cooperating Association (GMCA) and Tour Gros Morne. Grenfell Campus - Memorial University is located on the west coast of Newfoundland and has a Master of Arts in Environmental Policy (MAEP) program. The Gros Morne Cooperating Association (GMCA) works with Gros Morne National Park, and develops products and services for both visitors and residents within the region. Tour Gros Morne is a tourism company that provides sustainable tourism experiences to their clients.

AHOI is also working closely with businesses, town councils, organizations, educators, a national park, community members and hundreds of volunteers. In turn, AHOI is building capacity at the community level to help the transition away from single-use plastics and make the Gros Morne Region a leader in the circular economy!

Gathering Baseline Data

AHOI is gathering baseline data on the state of plastic waste in the region. This includes households, businesses, municipalities and the national park. The goal is to monitor and evaluate the amount of plastic waste being generated, as well as the amount being reduced through the implementation of various programs and sustainable solutions.


The programs and activities that help AHOI collect baseline data include:


Throughout this process, AHOI is also developing an auditing system that other organizations and regions can use to monitor the plastic waste generated in their respective locations and develop solutions from the results. It will also allow them to evaluate their plastic waste reduction.


AHOI members conducting a waste audit during a beach cleanup.

Gather Baseline Data
Raising Awareness
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AHOI 's Senior Plastics Program Coordinator, Jackie Bauman, leading an Eco-Brick building activity with pre-school aged children and their families during the 2021 World Ocean Day celebrations at the Old Cottage Hospital in Norris Point, NL. AHOI teamed up with Tree House Family Resource Centre, Parks Canada and Artists, Lori-Lee Thomas for the event.

Raising Awareness 

The initiative aims to educate the public on the impacts of plastic pollution while inspiring visitors and residents of the region to reduce their plastic waste. AHOI's collaborations and partnerships that help achieve this goal include:

  • A formal partnership agreement with Parks Canada - Gros Morne National Park and the Gros Morne Cooperating Association, which raises awareness of AHOI's beach cleanups and plastic waste ending up on our shorelines, educates the public on proper waste disposal and plastic waste diversion, provides informative tips for visitors to plan a sustainable trip to the Gros Morne Region, and increases capacity to engage with youth. 

  • A collaboration with Tree House Family Resource Centre - Bonne Bay North, for a World Ocean Day Celebrations 2021.

  • Hosting webinars with Memorial University, town councils, business operators, and Parks Canada to bring attention to our plastic program and spread awareness about ways that they can be part of the solution.

  • Hosting webinars with students and teachers at Gros Morne Academy and Jakeman All Grade School, to learn about plastic waste, its impacts on the environment and communities, as well as solutions to reduce, reuse and repurpose those problematic plastics. 

  • Bringing together experts, researchers, organizations, municipalities, businesses, politicians, and the public at the 2021 Plastic Waste Reduction Summit ​and 2022 Plastic Waste Reduction Summit. The summit informed participants and audiences about the issue of plastic waste and encouraged engagement through sharing best practices and identifying solutions that could be applied in the Gros Morne region. More than 100 people from across North America registered for the events, and the Livestreamed videos reached thousands more around the world. A What We Heard Report from the 2021 summit was also created so people could avail of the information, best practices and solutions shared and identified, and apply it to their own businesses and lives.

Collaborating with groups, youth-focused organizations and schools helps to not only build capacity for communities and businesses to tackle this plastic crisis, but creates capacity for the next generation of environmental leaders to advocate for a future free from plastic waste.

Developing Policies, Procedures and Programs

​AHOI consulted with community members, town councils and businesses to develop policies and programs that would bring effective, long lasting solutions for plastic waste and the burden that comes with it. AHOI also introduced innovative waste-diversion programs created and implemented in other areas. Some outcomes from these efforts include:

  • Creating AHOI's Sustainable Businesses Pilot Project, which helps businesses reduce their use of SUP products and raise awareness of sustainable alternatives to SUP.

  • Bringing the Recycle on the Rock program to the region, which includes collector bins for hard-to-recycle materials including bottle caps and bread tags. These items, which usually end up in the trash are given new life and get repurposed into other products. 

  • Bringing the Blue W water bottle refill program to the region, by collaborating with Gros Morne National Park, municipalities, and businesses to establish free, safe water refill locations throughout the region.

  • Creating a Bylaw that can be adopted by any town that is looking to ban certain single-use plastic items and reduce its local pollution. Working with municipalities, and conducting policy research and comparisons throughout the country to develop a AHOI is eager to help any community implement this strategy. 

  • Creating a Circular Economy Commitment, which is a list of actionable items that businesses, municipalities, accommodations, and individual community members can take to reduce their plastic footprint. The CEC was introduced during the 2022 summit and shared on the AHOI website


A table tent card developed by AHOI for businesses in the Sustainable Business Pilot Program. AHOI marks the checklist accordingly for each business.

Policies Procedueres and Programs

Photos: Some of the sustainable products being used by businesses in the Sustainable Business Pilot Program. Stainless Steel, 100% backyard compostable, and mason jars.

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Support Businesses in Reducing their use of Unnecessary SUP

Each summer, the Gros Morne region experiences a roughly 6,000 percent increase in people, so it's no surprise that a lot of business in the Gros Morne region is driven by tourism. This includes food, accommodations and tours, to name a few. This creates an opportunity for businesses and municipalities across the region to make positive, impactful actions, and take a leadership role in sustainability!

AHOI identified 4 business sectors that operate within the Gros Morne region with high opportunity to reduce plastic waste: Adventure Tourism, Accommodations, Restaurants, and Farms. In 2021 AHOI Kickstarted the Sustainable Business Pilot Program for businesses offering food service, to reduce their plastic waste by implementing a "refill, reuse, or rot" strategy within their operations. AHOI provided resources and guidance to assess their plastic use and footprint, implement waste solutions based on their specific needs, and source products that could be reused, refilled or composted properly. Through the pilot program, the businesses also had the opportunity to test out sustainable alternatives, to see how they performed, and provide valuable feedback to AHOI.


Nearly a dozen Gros Morne businesses that traditionally relied on disposable single-use plastic items for their food services and experiences, have switched to metal, glass, and biodegradable alternatives!


Working with participating businesses, AHOI:


  • Collected data on the types and amount of plastic products being used in the region.

  • Created a system for measuring plastic use, waste and reduction, including a plastic usage audit form. This form was filled out twice by participating businesses - once with information on plastic usage PRIOR to the start of the program, and once after the businesses implemented their sustainable alternatives. Businesses can continue monitoring their success yearly.

  • Researched compostable, refillable and reusable alternatives to the plastic products they have been using, based on the businesses' input and specific needs. AHOI also made careful consideration for the compostables. With no industrial composter in the region, the compostable products are able to be safely put in backyard composts. 

  • Identified suitable sustainable alternatives and sources, and developed an AHOI-approved catalogue that businesses can order from if they so choose. This resource will continue to evolve as we seek the latest and greatest alternatives. Please Contact AHOI if you wish to receive the latest copy.

  • Created a bulk order for businesses across the region to join in on, to make it easier and more affordable to acquire the sustainable products.

  • Developed informative postcards for businesses, informative postcards for Farm and Markets, and a sustainability checklist that businesses can share with their customers to highlight the great actions they are taking. 


For businesses that have filled out the plastic usage audit form, and have made the switch to alternative take-out containers, we can measure how much plastic waste is being diverted from their operation! These results can also be celebrated and shared within their operations, on their websites and social media platforms.

The businesses that participated in the pilot project are not plastic-free, but they continue to identify areas where they can  improve their sustainability in and look for plastic-free, sustainable options. They continue to consult with AHOI and work together to find solutions that suit their individual needs.

Sustainable Business Pilot Project
Spotlight on Businesses
In the AHOI Pilot Program
Bonne Bay Old Cottage Hospital
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The Old Cottage Hospital is an historic building located in Norris Point, NL. It was built in 1938 as a hospital and now houses a community garden and greenhouse program, community kitchen, hostel, radio station, public library, studio, museum, health centre and offices. Also known as the Julia Ann Walsh Centre, its mission is to preserve local culture and heritage, promote health and wellness, and foster local economic and social development. It was drawn to the Sustainable Business Pilot Program as the project resonates with its own mission and values. The cottage hospital was already making strides to use more sustainable products in their kitchen. They have a bulk pantry where they reuse glass jars that would otherwise end up in the landfill, due to not having a glass recycling program in the region. For their food service they used compostable paper bags and pulp trays. They were able to bring in more sustainable alternatives through participating in the AHOI pilot program. 


Bonne bay Old Cottage Hospital replaced items such as plastic-lined soup cups and styrofoam multi-compartment clamshells with unlined compostable take-out boxes, soy-based wax deli papers, compostable clamshells and compostable bowls and lids. They also  began using wooden cutlery. They’ve been using the sustainable alternatives for everything from soups and curries to root veggie fries and muffins.

Gros Morne Farm and Market
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Gros Morne Farm and Market is a small-scale market farm located in Norris Point, NL. Created in 2017, it is dedicated to growing quality produce to serve local communities in the area. The owners make every effort to reduce their plastic and overall waste and have persisted through a lot of trial and error throughout their sustainable journey.  Finding products that not only leave the environment healthy, but also keep their cut and harvested produce fresh and crisp is a priority for them. The produce grown on the farm is sold on-site, at markets and in its veggie box subscription program, in which customers get their fresh produce delivered to their door or business each week. The farm and market strives to achieve a circular, sustainable operation, particularly with its subscription boxes. Each week full boxes are placed at customers’ doors, in exchange for empty boxes and jars that were delivered the previous week. The business also allows customers to provide their own reusable options, particularly the restaurants, which buy in large quantities. 

The Gros Morne Farm and Market replaced items such as plastic vented clamshells, plastic bags and plastic containers with lids, with compostable berry boxes, compostable clamshells, cardboard boxes, and mason jars.

Gros Morne Adventures

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Gros Morne Adventures is an outdoor tour company located on the waterfront in Norris Point, NL. It has been offering high quality tours throughout the fjords, mountains, forests and waters of Gros Morne National Park since 1990. The business has a cafe within the kayak shop where they serve hot beverages and snacks. They allow customers to use their own reusable mugs but most of drinks and food at the cafe are eaten on-site where glassware is used. GMA do offer to-go options, and also provide food and drink on most of their guided tours. They have been using reusables where possible and in recent years have also been looking for alternatives to replace older reusable plastic food and beverage containers. 

"As small business owners in a rural coastal community, we have a responsibility towards the people, land and sea. Every effort should be made to ensure tourism is environmentally and socially sustainable for our region to thrive. Making small changes can have a large impact on communities and using sustainable products is a great starting point. We are thrilled that AHOI is undertaking a waste reduction initiative that will help us and the whole region curb plastic waste and offer sustainable alternatives." - Kristen and Robbie Hickey, Owners of Gros Morne Adventures.

GMA replaced items such as saran wrap, zip lock bags and aging plastic food containers with glass food containers, beeswax wrapping, paper bags and stainless steel bento boxes.

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Gros Morne Outdoor Company
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Founded in 2017, Gros Morne Outdoor Company is an adventure experience company that offers high quality outdoor experiences that showcases the beauty of Gros Morne National Park in all seasons. From stand-up paddle boards and backcountry hikes in the summer, to snowshoe and ski touring in the winter, it strives to lessen the impact its year-round operations have on both the environment and communities. The businesses shop is located in Norris Point, NL, overlooking the harbour, but its food service comes into play when they get outside to “play”. They offer food and beverages on their guided tours. The business already used many sustainable options in its tours and operation, but continue to look for areas to improve their sustainability.

 “It always feels good when you can lessen the impact on the environment, especially when you own an adventure experience company that showcases the pristine natural experiences Gros Morne National Park has to offer. Reducing our plastics will have a positive effect on our business, community, and environment and is essential as the public becomes more aware of the connections between their actions when traveling and what they support.” -  Natalie and Steve Wheeler, owners of the Gros Morne Outdoor Company. 

GMOC replaced items such as zip lock bags and plastic reusable food containers with silicone bags, metal bento box food containers, and bees wax paper. They also replaced thin-plastic ground sheets/vapour barriers for tents with ones made from a more durable, longer-lasting plastic.

Merchant Warehouse Retro Cafe and Wine Bar

The Merchant Warehouse Retro Cafe and Wine Bar in Wood Point, NL is a former warehouse turned social hotspot. The business combines a bar, restaurant, and 50s-themed diner at its restored historic waterfront property. The space highlights local history and popular culture but these nods to that past don’t prevent the owners from giving their business a modern, forward-thinking update. With over 36 years experience in the tourism sector, Jennifer and Stan Parsons also recognize the value in taking care of the ocean and coastal environment, that is so closely tied to their community and business. Throughout the years, they looked for more sustainable options but came up empty-handed or ended up paying almost twice as much. 

"Moving Away Slowly helps the Transition come Quicker . . . Slow & Steady” - Jenny Parsons, Co-owner of the Merchant Warehouse Retro Cafe and Wine Bar

They persisted and say AHOI’s program made it 100% easier. They encourage other business owners to move towards sustainable alternatives, saying it’s much easier nowadays, and you can do it gradually, introducing items over a period of time instead of all at once, if that’s not an option for you.

The Merchant Warehouse Retro Cafe and Wine Bar replaced items such as foam milkshake cups, plastic lids, plastic clam shells and straws with compostable clamshells, paper straws, round portion cups with lids, and wooden utensils.

Old Store Cafe
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The Old Store Cafe is a coffee shop located in Norris Point, NL that serves homemade food in addition to hot and cold beverages. Its warm and welcoming atmosphere showcases local art and hosts special culinary events throughout the year. The business, which operates full-time during the tourist season - May - September - and with reduced hours during the off-season, is popular among tourists and locals alike. It offers a diverse menu including everything from soups and paninis to pot pies and baked goods. They have been using some plastic-free products for their take-out and allow customers to use their own reusable mugs and food containers, and worked with AHOI to find more. 

“ It has always been important to be environmentally aware and sustainable in our practices. We feel it is important to do our part. “ - Annette Parsons, Old Store Café 

The Old Store Cafe replaced items such as plastic straws and cutlery with paper straws and wooden cutlery. 

Shallow Bay Motel
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Shallow Bay Motel is located in Cow Head, NL and boasts nearly 100 accommodations, a restaurant, a pub, conference rooms, and a performance theatre. Conveniently situated within Gros Morne National Park and near top-rated attractions including Shallow Bay Beach, Western Brook Pond and the Gros Morne Theatre Festival, it is a popular spot among both tourists and local travelers. The motel is a year-round operation, including its food service. While the tourism and hospitality industry greatly supports the small community and businesses, the business understands the responsibility that it has in ensuring that it remains well taken care of for the sake of future generations, and the economy. 

“We wanted to be a part of going plastic free, and with this Great program from AHOI we were able to come one step closer. The amount of plastic has dropped coming out of our business and you see more employees aware of what they should be recycling and reusing in the form of plastics and cans. I felt like it is time for us as a group in Gros Morne to take the next steps, and the bigger businesses to get on board everyone should follow. For anyone thinking about doing it, I understand the cost is a lot more than what you are paying right now, but if we work as a team and more businesses buy into the program, we should be able to lower costs in the future.” - Steven House, Manager of Shallow Bay Motel.

Shallow Bay Motel replaced items such as wrapped plastic straws, styrofoam food containers, plastic portion cups, with compostable clamshells, paper condiment cups, compostable bowls and lids, plates, wooden cutlery, and paper straws.

Taste & Tour Gros Morne

Tour Gros Morne is an award-winning tourism company in Norris Point, NL, that combines adventure, culture and cuisine into its high quality tours. It offers everything from hiking, to Kiln Glass-making workshops to progressive food and wine tours. It operates its business with a Sustainable Tourism Promise. It's food experiences are operated under Taste of Gros Morne. 

"Our top priority is looking after the health of the land, oceans and people we are connected to. This guides us through the creation of our experiences and is evident when you’re on our adventures here in Gros Morne National Park. COVID-19 challenged us all," said Ian Stone, co-owner of TGM Tours, "and this program allowed us to find innovative ways to create a closed-loop picnic food experience. With AHOI’s support we were able to test what this model could look like using mason jars for our salads and lemonades and metal tins for our packed lunches. AHOI's research base also gave us the knowledge and confidence to know it was ok to offer reusables during a pandemic." 


Tour Gros Morne uses stainless steel food containers, mason jars, reusable cutlery and water bottles. They use them for everything from sandwiches, salad, desserts, and beverages. Great care is taken to ensure its operations are as waste and plastic-free as possible by purchasing produce and other ingredients such as seafood locally, which almost eliminates waste.

There were some businesses and municipalities that did not take part in the pilot project but did order sustainable alternatives through AHOI, for their food service. They include:

Sugar Hill Inn in Norris Point

Out East Adventures

The Old Loft

Town of Norris Point

Many thanks to the businesses, municipalities, partners, community members and volunteers, who are helping the region move towards a more sustainable, circular economy!
Want to find out more about this initiative and the work we've done?
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