Canadians have a plastics problem. We throw away more than four million tonnes of plastic waste every year and recycle less than 10 per cent of it, according to the latest data from the federal government.

As such, a first-of-its-kind reuse program to be designed in collaboration with major Canadian grocers and the Government of Canada aims to eliminate single-use plastics through the largest collaborative reuse pilot program in Canada.

The Ottawa-based Circular Innovation Council, a leading national not-for-profit organization focusing on accelerating Canada’s transition toward a circular economy, has launched this innovative reuse initiative to address single use plastic waste in collaboration with major Canadian grocery retailers, including 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 scalable, convenient, and permanent solutions to reducing single use plastic packaging through innovative, collaborative reuse models.


Profile photo of Jo-Anne St. GodardJo-Anne St. Godard, Executive Director, Circular Innovation Council. Credit: LinkedIn.

“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 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.”

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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 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 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.

“To address the triple crisis of a changing climate, biodiversity loss, and pollution, we must rethink the way we do business. It’s very exciting to see leadership by Circular Innovation Council and participating Canadian grocery retailers as they step forward and work together on reuse solutions to address the plastic waste problem in the food sector. This initiative will drive solutions that are convenient, sustainable, and affordable for Canadians,” said Steven Guilbeault, Minister of Environment and Climate Change.

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“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. 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,” said Councillor Shawn Menard, chair of the City of Ottawa’s Environment and Climate Change Committee.

“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 and co-founder of

Grocer participation in developing plastic management and reuse solutions

METRO is a network of 983 food stores under several banners including Metro, Metro Plus, Super C and Food Basics. With annual sales of more than $20 billion, METRO is a food and pharmacy leader in Québec and Ontario.

“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, senior VP of Metro Operations.

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Sobeys Inc. is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Empire Company Limited, headquartered in Stellarton, Nova Scotia. Sobeys, its franchisees and affiliates employ approximately 131,000 people.

“Sobeys has a goal to make it easier to live plastic waste free. We have the reach and responsibility to explore new and innovative ways to eliminate even more plastics from our supply chain,” said Kristi Lalach, SVP, Legal and Sustainability, Empire Company Limited. “Participating in the design of a program that would give customers a way to reuse containers from the deli and takeaway counters is a step in the right direction for our customers, our communities, and the environment.”

Walmart Canada is part of Walmart Inc., which has grown to become one of the country’s largest employers, with more than 100,000 associates nationwide, working with close to 2,000 Canadian suppliers.

“At Walmart Canada, we’re continually looking for opportunities to push the industry forward when it comes to innovative solutions around plastics reduction,” said John Bayliss, chief operations officer of Walmart Canada. “We’re proud to be part of this unique project that will help to introduce Canadian consumers to collaborative reuse models and is a major step in the right direction towards our packaging goals.”

For further details about this program, visit here.

Featured image by nrd on Unsplash


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