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05/10/2022

IGA launches zero-waste packaging program

Partnership with Reusables.com aims to save thousands of single-use containers from waste streams
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Resuables.com stainless steel container

IGA has teamed up with Reusables.com to do its part in the war on plastic.

Reusables.com is a container-sharing platform that was created during the pandemic for food takeout and delivery. Meals come in a stainless steel container that can be used, returned, sanitized and reused thousands of times, before being recycled, according to the company. Container usage and returns are managed through a user-friendly app.

Tom Truchan, director of project management and logistics at Georgia Main Food Group (IGA’s parent), says the company started looking at alternatives for single-plastic containers in 2019 when the City of Vancouver announced new bylaws on single-use plastic, as part of a phased-in strategy.

“There was a lot of talk among the city of Vancouver and other levels of government about the need for private business to come up with solutions with them,” says Truchan. “So, we had started looking at that internally on the possibility of doing a reusable container program in our stores. But with regards to the logistics of it, we just didn’t have the right infrastructure.”

After reading about Reusables.com servicing restaurants in Vancouver, Truchan reached out to see if the service could be expanded into the grocery space. They started with a pilot at Fresh St. Market in Vancouver. After a successful test, the program has now rolled out at IGA Robson, and Georgia Main plans to expand it across both banners.

The containers are used for deli and prepared foods, and the two companies are exploring more “smart container options” in other categories.

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IGA Resuables.com stainless steel container holding a sandwich

Consumers have to pay to do their part: Reusables.com customers get their first 30 days free when downloading the app and then pay $5 a month to get unlimited reusables.

Asked why people would be willing to pay to use this service, Truchan said there was no one-size-fits-all in the sustainability field. “There are consumers who are very engaged and conscious, there are others who are not interested at all, and still others who are interested but not as engaged and educated on the impacts of packaging,” he said.

“So, it’s an evolutionary process. I think reusable packaging is in an infancy stage. I see it becoming a game-changer over time as consumers become educated and understand the concept, especially in municipalities like Vancouver, where the city is very focused [on sustainability].”

In a press release, Jason Hawkins, Reusables.com co-founder and CEO, credited IGA for showing leadership in this space and understanding the importance of working in a circular economy.

“As partners of stores like IGA, our job is to use our technology to create a more convenient digital solution for reuse that does not require a container deposit from consumers,” said Hawkins. “This allows us to offer high-quality, stainless steel containers that can be used hundreds if not thousands of times.”