Circular Innovation Council Collaborates with Canada's Biggest Grocers to Design an Innovative Reuse Program

First-of-its-kind reuse program to be designed in collaboration with Canadian grocers Metro, Sobeys, and Walmart Canada, and the Government of Canada; aims to eliminate single-use plastics as the largest collaborative reuse pilot program in Canada.

OTTAWA, Jan. 17, 2024 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- Circular Innovation Council, a leading national not-for-profit organization focusing on accelerating Canada’s transition toward a circular economy, 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 scalable, convenient, and permanent solutions to reducing single use plastic packaging through innovative, collaborative reuse models.

Reuse Pilot Partners

“Reuse is a critical pathway to transitioning Canada to a circular economy and to eliminating single use plastics,” says 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.”

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,” says the Honourable Steven Guilbeault, Minister of Environment and Climate Change.

“In launching this innovative reuse program, we're not just working towards eliminating single-use plastics; we're reshaping #TeamOttawa’s approach to business. My Council colleagues and I have made the environment and climate change a key priority - it's the responsible path forward. It’s supporting retailers and consumers to work together to create a sustainable marketplace, especially reducing single-use plastics. It’s smart for the environment, smart for the economy.” Mayor Mark Sutcliffe, City of Ottawa

“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.” 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."
Jason Hawkins, CEO & Co-Founder of

“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.” Joe Fusco, SR. VP. Metro Operations

“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.”

“At Walmart Canada, we’re continually looking for opportunities to push the industry forward when it comes to innovative solutions around plastics reduction,” says John Bayliss, Chief Operations Officer, 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.”

“Widespread, convenient, and affordable systems for reusable packaging are key to Zero Plastic Waste, a goal shared among the provinces and federal government. The approach that Circular Innovation Council has taken with this pilot, involving multiple retailers in close proximity operating a pooled system, is the gold standard for effective reuse. We are delighted to see this launch and believe the learnings will help scale this type of service quickly across Canada”. Tim Gray, Executive Director, Environmental Defence

For more details, visit here.

This announcement comes just in time to celebrate the recent success of Circular Economy Month, inviting Canadians to take the month of October to learn about the circular economy, celebrate individual and collective efforts, embrace circular solutions, and encourage others to take action.

About Circular Innovation Council
Circular Innovation Council is a national, not-for-profit, membership-based organization with over 40 years of experience delivering programming that educates and empowers Canadians to take action on the circular economy and its environmental, economic and social benefits. In concert with our members and partners, we leverage our experience and expertise to deliver on the broad gains inspired by the circular economy through research, policy, programs, and pilots. Our mandate is to accelerate Canada’s transition toward a circular economy by putting concepts into action.

For media inquiries, please contact:
Dena Cole
Bubblegum Canada

A photo accompanying this announcement is available at