More than 70 Canadian retailers, manufacturers, associations, non-profits, and other organizations have joined to form the Canada Plastics Pact.
The pact is an ambitious action plan to eliminate plastic waste and “represents unprecedented cross-value chain collaboration, uniting key players behind a shared vision for a circular economy for plastics packaging in Canada and a targeted plan to drive tangible change by 2025.”
On the grocery retail side, partners include Loblaw Companies and Walmart Canada, while manufacturer partners include Maple Leaf Foods, Nature’s Touch Frozen Foods, Unilever and Kraft Heinz Canada.
More than 85 per cent of plastic packaging produced in Canada gets used once and ends up in landfills or the environment, says the Canada Plastics Pact.
Managing director George Roter told Canadian Grocer that part of the problem is the many different formats of plastic packaging for products. “At a grocery store, there are 100,000 SKUs and probably two-thirds of those have plastic packaging of some sort,” he said. “It’s just tonnes of different formats and tonnes of different types of plastic… The [Canadian Plastic Pact’s] roadmap shifts [the mindset] to say we can’t actually forget about it. Businesses, citizens and governments have come to that conclusion, so now it’s time to address all this complexity and make a big shift.”
The pact’s “Roadmap to 2025: A shared action plan to build a circular economy for plastics packaging” has three strategic priorities:
- Reduce, reuse, collect: This includes eliminating unnecessary and hard to recycle plastics, driving innovation for reuse and refill business models, innovating to prevent waste from being created in the first place, and improving collection and recycling systems.
- Optimize the recycling system: The CPP will drive wide adoption of circular packaging design standards to improve recyclability. It will also address some of the technical challenges for incorporating recycled resins into packaging and boost demand, and inform relevant government policies.
- Use data to improve the whole system: The CPP will improve the performance of recycling systems by creating standard definitions and measurement practices for what packaging is put on the market, where it goes, and what is collected, sorted, recycled and reprocessed. It will also drive investment in real-time data and monitoring.
Roter said the plan would result in changes coming to grocery shelves over the next few years. Some may be subtle, such as making the cap the same type of plastic as the rest of the container, while others may be more obvious.
Roter also suggested that grocers could make changes to their private-label packaging and support their suppliers in tackling plastic packaging waste. They can also look at their own operations, including plastic bags and packaging for prepared foods, with options including changing designs, eliminating plastic packaging, and innovating on a business model by introducing refill and reuse stations.
An important piece for grocery retailers is talking to customers about the changes and listening to their feedback. “The wonderful thing about grocers is people go to the grocery store once a week or multiple times a week. I can’t think of another store that people will visit so regularly,” notes Roter. “And so, that interaction is such an incredible opportunity for talking to people about this issue and inviting them to be part of the solution.”