Grocers to trial reusable packaging in Ottawa

The Circular Innovation Council has launched a first-of-its-kind reuse initiative to address single use plastic waste in collaboration with major Canadian grocery retailers Metro, Sobeys, and Walmart Canada.

Co-funded by participating grocery retailers with support from Environment and Climate Change Canada, this will be the largest collaborative reuse initiative in the country. Starting with the development of a unique reusable food container pilot planned for launch in Ottawa in mid-2024, this national program aims to demonstrate solutions to reduce single use plastic packaging .

“Reuse is a critical pathway to transitioning Canada to a circular economy and to eliminating single use plastics,” said Jo-Anne St. Godard, executive director of the Circular Innovation Council.

“The cooperation and collaboration between our participating grocery retailers and the government of Canada is truly unique and demonstrates their commitment to addressing the plastic waste crisis. Canadians have voiced their environmental and cost concerns around the plastic crisis and are wanting innovative solutions.”   

As part of the Ottawa pilot program, consumers will have the opportunity to purchase selected food products in reusable containers at participating grocery retailers and other food service locations within the pilot area, the containers will be provided at no cost. Consumers will be able to return the reusable containers through a variety of convenient return options, including neighbourhood drop-off locations.  Technology service partner Reusables.com will provide the smart return bins and will be able to track container movements through washing and distribution.

In this unique model, the ownership of the reusable containers will be shared between the grocery retailers and other food service pilot participants in the pilot area. They will work collaboratively, sharing containers, ensuring proper sanitation and food safety requirements are met, and organizing transportation and logistics.

“This is an industry-leading initiative that’s set to revolutionize packaging and we are honoured to provide our technology for ending single-use waste and driving the circular economy. I invite many more food retailers to join this consortium and be part of the solution,” said Jason Hawkins, CEO & Co-Founder of Reusables.com.

This collective shared pool resource model will be a first in Canada for reusable containers at this scale. Learnings from the Ottawa pilot will be used to develop and scale a variety of reuse programs across the city of Ottawa and in other regions across Canada.

“I am excited the City of Ottawa is partnering in this pilot project. Its success is very achievable as we have seen retailers and consumers quickly adapt from using single-use plastic bags to using reusable bags and boxes to carry their purchases to their home,” said Shawn Menard, city councillor and chair of the Ottawa’s Environment and Climate Change Committee.

“Reusable containers are a logical next step. We have all made our efforts for recycling plastics, but to make a bigger impact we need to focus on reusing. This is a just step forward to continue our movement towards a circular economy.”

“METRO is proud to be part of this innovative pilot project, testing the use of reusable containers in our retail stores. This project aligns with our corporate objective to reduce single-use plastic waste. By developing an efficient reusable solution, we aim to offer our customers a more sustainable way to shop in our stores, without having to compromise the quality or safety of the products they purchase,” said Joe Fusco, SR. VP. Metro Operations.