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Sobeys to remove plastic bags from all stores next year as retailers go green

Screen Shot 2019-08-01 at 10.08.06 PMShoppers at Sobeys Inc. grocery stores will soon need to bring their own totes or lug their purchases home in paper bags as the chain moves to phase out plastic bags by February 2020.

Canadians go through hundreds of millions of single-use plastic bags at grocery stores each year, and the chains – most of which charge a nominal fee for plastic bags – are facing pressure from increasingly eco-conscious consumers to do more to eliminate their plastic-centric packaging.

Sobeys said it is making the move to phase out plastic bags as a response to calls from customers and employees to use less plastic. The retailer also committed to launch programs to reduce plastic in other areas of the stores.

“We really felt that the amount of avoidable plastic in grocery stores is shocking,” said Vittoria Varalli, the company’s vice-president of sustainability. The change will eliminate 225 million bags used annually at Sobeys 255 stores.

The company, which is owned by Stellarton, N.S.-based Empire Co. Ltd, will phase out plastic bags and introduce paper bags at its other banners soon after. Sobeys also operates Safeway, Thrifty Foods, IGA, Foodland, Freshco and Farm Boy. It boasts more than 1,500 stores across all its chains.

“The ultimate goal,” said Varalli, is to eliminate plastic bags from the produce aisle as well. It plans to introduce a line of reusable mesh alternatives made from recycled bottles in August.

Food companies have been on a mission to reduce plastic from their operations recently as consumers push for more sustainable practices. Some are taking initiatives to change ahead of the federal government’s announced ban on single-use plastics by 2021, which would force them to find non-plastic alternatives.

Last year, restaurants responded to pressure to eliminate plastic straws after a video showing someone removing a straw stuck up a turtle’s nose went viral.

Starbucks, A&W and other chains made promises to remove the item from their eateries, and some have already done so.

But the trend toward sustainability didn’t stop at straws. Many fast-food giants started experimenting with other green packaging. In June, McDonald’s Canada announced it would test wooden cutlery and other recycling-friendly containers at two restaurants.

“I think they’re trying to respond to popular concern,” said Vito Buonsante, plastics program manager at the advocacy organization Environmental Defence, of grocers’ efforts to reduce plastic waste by targeting plastic bags.

In coastal regions, plastic bags create a major environmental problem, he said, where they persist for a long time and harm wildlife.

Despite the fact that Canadians use about 2.86 billion plastic bags a year, Buonsante sees them as “low-hanging fruit” that people easily can do without.

Grocery stores are slowly starting to get on board with the push to eliminate single-use plastics.

Metro Inc. announced earlier this year it would start allowing consumers to use reusable containers to store fresh products, such as those from the deli and pastry counters, at its Quebec stores.

In May, the company committed to cut its use of single-use plastic bags in half by the end of its 2023 financial year. It also said it wants to reduce the amount of produce bags used by 10 per cent by the end of its 2020 financial year.

Loblaw Companies Ltd., meanwhile, started charging five cents per plastic bag about a decade ago and reduced the number of plastic bags used in its stores by nearly 12 billion, wrote spokesperson Catherine Thomas in an email.

It has donated $10 million to the World Wildlife Fund with some of the proceeds as of the end of 2018. Thomas declined to provide the total amount the company has made by charging for plastic bags.

Meanwhile, customers seeking greener grocery pastures have given rise to niche no-waste markets across Canada.

“Change is kind of happening,” said Buonsante, but – for the most part – these initiatives are limited in effectiveness.

A five-cent bag fee is not a strong deterrent, he said, and companies should create incentives to help shoppers shift their habits.

Governments around the world have started to crack down on single-use plastics to force companies into change.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said in June that his government is starting the regulatory work to ban toxic single-use plastics because the garbage infiltrating the world’s waterways is out of hand.

Nothing is going to be banned overnight, with the process to implement a federal ban or limitations on a product under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act usually taking two to four years. The goal is to make decisions on everything on the list by 2021.

Trudeau said Canada’s plan will “closely mirror” that of Europe. In March, the European Parliament agreed that by 2021 the European Union will ban almost a dozen single-use products including plastic plates, cutlery, cups, straws, plastic sticks in cotton swabs, balloon sticks and stir sticks, and Styrofoam cups and take-out food containers. Oxo-degradeable plastics including plastic grocery bags, which break down into tiny pieces with exposure to air but never fully disappear, are also to be banned.


PepsiCo inches closers to ‘circular economy’ for packaging

1PepsiCo is pushing forward with major sustainability efforts in the water category to further minimize plastic waste.

Inching closer to a “circular economy,” the beverage manufacturer announced that LIFEWTR will be packaged in 100% recycled polyethylene terephthalate rPET, Bubly will no longer be distributed in plastic bottles, and Aquafina will soon come in an aluminum can (first in foodservice outlets, then at retail).

Going into effect next year, the changes are expected to eliminate more than 8,000 metric tons of virgin plastic and roughly 11,000 metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions. It’s part of PepsiCo’s larger goal of making 100% of its packaging recyclable, compostable or biodegradable and use 25% recycled content in all plastic packaging by 2025.

“Tackling plastic waste is one of my top priorities and I take this challenge personally,” said PepsiCo executive officer Ramon Laguarta. “We recognize the significant role PepsiCo can play in helping to change the way society makes, uses, and disposes of plastics. We are doing our part to address the issue head on by reducing, recycling and reinventing our packaging to make it more sustainable, and we won’t stop until we live in a world where plastics are renewed and reused.”

This isn’t the first move Pepsi has made toward a circular economy. In 2009, the company began making bottles for its Naked Juice brand with 100% rPET. According to the release, rPET requires about 25% less energy than virgin plastic.

As one of the largest users of rPET, PepsiCo has teamed with the likes of Loop, The Recycling Partnership, Alliance to End Plastic Waste and the World Economic Forum’s Global Plastic Action (GPAP) to increase the supply needed to meet its packaging goals and recycling rates, as well as to enhance its plastic recycling infrastructure.

“We are really excited to evolve our packaging across PepsiCo’s water portfolio to make a positive impact,” says Stacy Taffet, vice president of the water portfolio.

Originally published by Path to Purchase IQ.


What will the plastics ban mean for foodservice?

recycling-takeout-containersA national ban on the most harmful single-use plastics will very likely force foodservice operators, restaurants and fast-food outlets to find non-plastic materials for takeout and delivery containers but plastic bottles for water and soda are more likely to be improved rather than phased out.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said last week his government is starting the regulatory work to ban toxic single-use plastics because the garbage infiltrating the world’s waterways is out of hand.

“As parents, we’re at a point where we take our kids to the beach and we have to search out a patch of sand that isn’t littered with straws, Styrofoam or bottles,” he said. “That’s a problem, one that we have to do something about.”

Nothing is going to be banned overnight, with the process to implement a federal ban or limitations on a product under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act usually taking two to four years. The goal is to make decisions on everything on the list by 2021.

“It’s going to take a little bit of time to make sure we get it absolutely right because this is a big step but we know that we can do this by 2021,” Trudeau said.

The process includes an assessment of each product, a proposed regulation, a public comment period, and then the final decision by cabinet.

Trudeau said Canada’s plan will “closely mirror” that of Europe. In March, the European Parliament agreed that by 2021 the European Union will ban almost a dozen single-use products including plastic plates, cutlery, cups, straws, plastic sticks in cotton swabs, balloon sticks and stir sticks, and Styrofoam cups and take-out food containers. Oxo-degradeable plastics including plastic grocery bags, which break down into tiny pieces with exposure to air but never fully disappear, are also to be banned.

Plastic beverage bottles won’t be banned in Europe but the EU will require them to contain a minimum of 30% recycled material by 2030, and a collection rate for recycling or reuse of 90% by 2029. Europe is putting new onus on producers of plastics to ensure they are recycled or reused, including the makers of fishing nets, which are among the most prevalent plastics trapping fish and polluting water bodies.

An official at Environment Canada, speaking anonymously because he wasn’t authorized to speak publicly, said Canada’s focus will be on banning things that are the most harmful, or the hardest to recycle. Everything will be run through a full scientific assessment as well as a socio-economic-impact review before any proposals for bans or regulations of materials are made, he said. There may be some exceptions to bans if certain uses of products are critical or irreplaceable, he said.

Styrofoam take-out containers are among the products most likely to be banned in Canada. While restaurants favour them because they’re cheap, lightweight and good for hot or cold food, there are already a number of alternatives. Styrofoam containers are also among the worst for the environment; they break down into tiny little pieces that are easily ingested by fish, animals and ultimately humans.

Plastic straws are already on their way out by restaurants’ choice, but will almost certainly be covered by the Canadian ban nonetheless. A high-profile campaign against plastic straws last year drove numerous multi-national food and beverage companies, including A&W and Starbucks, to replace plastic straws with paper versions, and many restaurants just stopped automatically putting straws in drinks as a first step.

Plastic bottles, however, are unlikely to make the list of banned products. The official said bottles are an area where Canada could require a greater amount of recycled material, and set national targets so 90 to 100% of them are collected for recycling. All of that would trigger provincial and municipal governments to up their recycling games.

Canada currently throws out 12 times the plastic it recycles, and there are only about a dozen domestic recycling plants. Requiring more recycled content in bottles or other plastic products would create a larger market for recycled plastic material that would in turn, spur economic activity in the sector and an explosion in the number of sorting and recycling plants.

A recent report done by Deloitte and ChemInfo Services for Environment and Climate Change Canada found a 90% plastics recycling rate in Canada could create 42,000 jobs.

Environment groups were cautiously optimistic about the announcement Monday, saying they want to see the follow-through but noting the best way to reduce plastic garbage is to reduce the plastic we produce and use to begin with.

“I think we are generally satisfied,” said Vito Buonsante, plastics program manager for Environmental Defence.

Sarah King, head of the oceans and plastics campaign at Greenpeace Canada, called it a good first step.

NDP MP Gord Johns, whose motion calling for a national strategy to combat plastic pollution passed with unanimous support in December, said the Liberals’ move is a good beginning but it is not a full strategy to get to zero plastic waste.

Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer shrugged it off as another empty announcement devoid of specifics and without any information on the implications for prices for consumers or for jobs in the plastics industry.

The Canadian Federation of Independent Business is also leery of the proposals, with president Dan Kelly asking for a “thorough economic impact assessment” before anything is banned.

“It would be irresponsible to put such a sweeping measure into place without fully studying the possible impacts on Canada’s small businesses first,” said Kelly. “There is no reason why sound environmental policy and economic development can’t go hand in hand.”

 


7-Eleven’s parent company to ban plastic bags

Seven & i Holdings will stop giving customers disposable plastic shopping bags by 2030.

The Japan-based parent company of 7-Eleven Inc. is making the move as part of its plan to reduce plastic waste, according to NHK World Japan.

The disposable plastic bags will be replaced by paper or other plant-based bags. In addition, the retailer plans to reduce its plastic use from the current level by more than half by 2030, and to zero by 2050, by using paper and recycled material for food packaging, the report added.

According to the company’s website, Seven & i Group promotes the reduced use of disposable plastic bags by asking customers whether they need a bag at the register, displaying posters and point-of-purchase signs, and holding events to encourage customers to bring their own shopping bags when shopping at stores.

In addition, its superstore banner Ito-Yokado Co. Ltd. has already discontinued the free distribution of plastic bags on the food floors of all its stores. Its supermarket banner York-Benimaru Co. Ltd. has followed suit at around 90 percent of its stores.

Its convenience store banner, Seven-Eleven Japan Co. Ltd. is working to introduce biomass polyethylene shopping bags.

Tokyo-based Seven & i Holdings is a group companies centering on a wide variety of business operations, including convenience stores, superstores, department stores, supermarkets, specialty stores and food services.

Its subsidiary, Irving-based 7-Eleven Inc., operates, franchises and/or licenses more than 67,000 stores in 17 countries, including 11,800 in North America.