Making it easier to live plastic waste-free.
The very same durability that has made plastic a useful way to protect our food and goods means it accumulates and persists in our landfills, waterways and ecosystems for hundreds and sometimes thousands of years. We have a valuable role to play to help shape policy, influence suppliers and put in place processes that make it easier to reduce, reuse and recycle—fostering circular economies. As a Canadian leader in plastics reduction, we are committed to ongoing partnerships with suppliers, manufacturers, processors and composters to find alternative forms of packaging that are better for people and the planet.
We are leaders in plastic waste reduction and circularity in our industry. Our overarching strategic approach to plastics and packaging is aligned with the Government of Canada’s Action Plan on Zero Plastic Waste.
We support the federal government’s mandate to reduce plastic waste and improve reuse and value recovery. These actions are critical to reduce plastics released into our environment.
We are committed to eliminating plastic waste in our Own Brands and in our operations, to pursuing circularity1 as a key business differentiator, and to inspiring technological, organizational and social innovation across our value chain. Addressing the areas that matter to our customers is one of the ways we can grow our market share, one of our strategic objectives under Project Horizon.
Eliminating even more plastic in our industry is a complex challenge. Current municipal recycling policies and guidelines differ between regions and provinces, making it difficult to recycle plastic products uniformly.
Similarly, Canada lacks recycling and composting standards, meaning that it takes time and effort to validate the claims made by different suppliers and manufacturers for alternative packaging items. And, importantly, there continues to be a limited supply of recycled content for food packaging.
We are leaders in plastics reduction and eliminated single-use plastic checkout bags in fiscal 2021. Building on this momentum, in fiscal 2022 we began work to develop a multi-year Plastics Action Plan with specific targets for 2025 and 2030 in the following action areas:
We are working our way towards setting targets in each of these three key actions areas of our Plastics Action Plan. These targets will be focused on reducing unnecessary and hard-to-recycle single-use plastics within our Own Brands and operations, increasing the use of post-consumer recycled (PCR) plastic material in our packaging, leading on circularity in our stores and e-commerce, and engaging with customers to reduce plastic waste at home.
1 A circular economy aims to keep products and materials in use as long as possible and to maximize their value. This system closes the loop in use of natural resources by reducing, reusing, repairing, remanufacturing, recycling and composting materials or, if no other option exists, recovering energy at their end of life. (Strategy on Zero Plastic Waste, Canadian Council of Ministers of the Environment, 2018)
Plastic Waste Challenge
We launched a national Plastic Waste Challenge to find a commercially viable and sustainable alternative for in-store wrapped seafood meat and produce packaging. We’ve teamed up with IGNITE Atlantic, Divert NS and the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency (ACOA) to identify possible innovative solutions from potential partners across the country to collaborate to solve the plastic packaging puzzle. We called on innovators, entrepreneurs, research hubs and packaging manufacturers to bring us their ideas, and we received an encouraging number of expressions of interest. The winning applicant will receive a $25,000 cash prize and a chance to pilot the product in some of our Nova Scotia stores, as well as a 12-month residency package with Ignite Atlantic, a meeting with ACOA to discuss the potential for further development and up to an additional $25,000 from Divert NS toward the cost of an in-store pilot. We look forward to sharing more on this exciting project over the year.
Improving Recyclability in Own Brands Packaging
When it comes to addressing plastics and packaging, we are leading by example by driving important changes in our Own Brands products. In fiscal 2022 we transitioned:
plastic egg cartons to recycled pulp cartons
plastic rings to KeelClip™—a holder made up of 100% recycled paperboard
Over two million
units of Panache Sausages from non-recyclable black PET trays to recyclable clear PET trays
Over 2.2 million
units of Compliments Prepared Protein Chicken/Turkey/Beef Strips from black foam polystyrene trays to recyclable clear PET trays
Encouraging Plastic Bag Recycling Through Voilà
Voilà has equipped its customers in Ontario with a closed-loop bag recycling program. Voilà customers can return bags to our delivery teammates when their groceries are delivered at their doorsteps. These used plastic bags are then recycled into new Voilà bags in Ontario. Our delivery teammates accept returns of Voilà bags—and any other bags customers may have—in an effort to continue to remove single-use plastic bags from the environment. Since the inception of this recycling program in September 2022, over 1.9 million bags (40%) were collected and recycled through this program (as of April 2022). Meanwhile, in Quebec, Voilà customers are supplied with compostable paper bags that are made from 70% recycled paper.
Bulk Soaps Help Reduce Plastics
Customers can help reduce plastics while keeping their bodies and homes clean thanks to new bulk-soap dispensing stations being rolled out in our Rachelle Béry and IGA stores. This eco-friendly concept offers customers reusable containers and access to refills on laundry detergent, shampoo, window cleaner and other liquid soaps. The cleaning products on offer are made without the use of harsh chemicals and are all biodegradable within 28 days.
Partnering on Extended Producer Responsibility
In fiscal 2022 we collaborated to launch Circular Materials-a new partnership with 16 other leading food, beverage and consumer products manufacturers, retailers and restaurants. Circular Materials is a national not-for-profit producer responsibility organization (PRO) that serves, represents and supports producers in building more efficient recycling systems across Canada. Circular Materials will represent producers’ collective interests in establishing new recycling rules, with the goal of ensuring that the blue box collection system operates fairly for everyone in Ontario, Alberta, New Brunswick and many more provinces to come.
Recycling Beer Holders
Sobeys and Safeway liquor stores have partnered with Alberta’s Small Brewers Association on an industry-wide closed-loop recycling initiative to keep hard-to-recycle PakTech beer holders out of landfills across Saskatchewan, Alberta and British Columbia. Customers can drop off their PakTech holders in designated in-store bins. Working with Connect Logistics, the bins are picked up weekly and dropped at a central location. Alberta’s Small Brewers Association then collects the PakTech holders and distributes them to small breweries to be reused—and then recycled again through our stores. By the end of fiscal 2023, the program will be in over 100 stores across Western Canada.
We have a responsibility to support the health of our environment and be mindful of the impact our organization has on our community, our families and future generations. We strive to continue to operate efficiently, appropriately manage waste and make environmentally conscious decisions while supporting local business whenever we have the opportunity. I see us learning from the past and making marked improvements and changes to make this world sustainable.”
Lauren Luscombe, Director of Operations, Sobeys inc.
Our work to reduce plastics is strongly aligned with and connected to our focus on ethical and sustainable sourcing and efforts to reduce food waste
As a family nurturing families, we want to ensure Canadians are taken care of today, tomorrow and in the future. By doing OurPart™ for the environment, we hope to inspire our customers to do theirs. Every step we take together—big or small—can make a difference.Learn More