Making it easier to live plastic waste-free
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 circularity as a key business differentiator, and to inspiring technological, organizational and social innovation across our value chain. 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.
In fiscal 2023 we continued to make progress on 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 action 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.
Our plan to eliminate single-use plastics aligns with the Government of Canada’s plan to achieve zero plastic waste by 2030, and the Single-use Plastics Prohibition Regulations. We have committed to eliminating the banned items under this regulation well ahead of the effective date. Of the approximately 594 single-use plastic items identified in this regulation in use at our stores, we have eliminated 82 per cent and are making progress to have recyclable or compostable alternatives for the remaining items by the required deadline.
As part of our Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) tracking, we are working with Own Brands supplier partners to collect information on packaging including data on weight, dimensions and the amount of recycled materials used. This information helps us reduce problematic and unnecessary plastic from Own Brands packaging. Our next step is to expand and refine our approach, which will allow us to increase transparency and set targets to improve our packaging sustainability.
As a member of the Retail Council of Canada, we participate in industry committees related to plastics and packaging, including the EPR Stewardship Committee and the Plastics Committee. We have a consulting relationship with the Circular Innovation Council and regularly connect with them on best practices for packaging circularity in the retail industry.
In addition, we have collaborative partnerships with our supplier partners to address plastics and packaging. This includes work being led by our pharmacy teams, who use recyclable PET (Polyethylene terephthalate) plastic for all prescription vials and lids. Like us, our supplier partner for these items have been highly active in setting and attaining GHG-reductions targets and in exploring ways to grow packaging circularity. Pharmacy operations are also transitioning to a more sustainable solution for blister packs and have issued an RFP for more sustainable pharmaceutical paper bags.
Plastic Action Committee
In fiscal 2023, we created an internal Plastic Action Committee to inform, champion, and drive action to reduce and eliminate plastic and packaging. Led by our Sustainability team, the committee meets quarterly and includes participants from key stakeholder departments organized into functional groups, each focused on reducing plastics in various aspects of our business.
Plastic Waste Challenge Enters Pilot Phase
In fiscal 2023, we began planning towards piloting a compostable replacement for unrecyclable packaging for meat products. The pilot is planned to begin in Halifax, Nova Scotia. The pilot project is the latest phase in our national Plastic Waste Challenge, launched in fiscal 2022 in partnership with IGNITE Atlantic, Divert NS and the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency (ACOA). Drawing on submissions from nearly 20 companies and presentations from six finalists, Ontario-based Eco Guardian won the $25,000 challenge and the opportunity to pilot its sugarcane and bamboo-derived packaging in stores.
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 2023 we:
- Advanced plans to change 143 products using unrecyclable black plastic, equaling approximately 106 tons, to packaging that supports a circular economy
- Redesigned packaging for four of our top-selling cereal brands, eliminating over 35 tons of paper box material
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. Since the inception of this recycling program in September 2022, over 4.6 million bags (42 per cent) were collected and recycled through this program (as of March 2023). Quebec-based Voilà customers received compostable paper bags made from 40 per cent recycled paper. As part of our continued efforts on single-use plastic bag elimination, we are scaling the use of compostable bags to our Alberta and Ontario Voilà customers by the fall of 2023.
Bulk Windshield Washer Fluid
Since fiscal 2022 we have displaced 13,000 3.75 litre plastic jugs as part of a bulk windshield washer fluid solution pilot in Quebec, delivered in partnership with Cristal Innovation. In fiscal 2023 we partnered with Eco Tank to test bulk dispensers in eight locations in Quebec, which eliminated an additional 6,200 3.75 litre jugs. Based on the success of these pilots, we are implementing plans to expand the offering in Halifax and Quebec.
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
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