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03/29/2022

Sobeys pursues a plastic-free future with new Canada-wide challenge

The grocer aims to further reduce single-use plastics from its operations
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In an attempt to further phase out single-use plastics across all of its operations, Sobeys has launched a nationwide Plastic Waste Challenge, in partnership with Ignite Atlantic, Divert NS, and Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency (ACOA).

From now until May 2022, Sobeys is accepting applications from across Canada, with the ultimate goal of identifying a commercially viable and sustainable alternative to the non-recyclable styrofoam and moisture pads that are currently found on in-store wrapped fish and meat, as well as produce. 

This is the latest sustainability initiative from Sobeys, after becoming the first national grocer to eliminate plastic bags from the checkout counters of its family banner stores in January 2020.

Since switching to a series of reusable bag options, including a soft, green-coloured woven bag and paper bags, Sobeys has successfully diverted 800 million shopping bags from ending up in landfills. 

For the challenge, Sobeys will pick a winning sustainable package solution that will begin as a pilot project in Nova Scotia. The winning applicant will also receive a $25,000 cash prize from Sobeys along with additional support associated with launching the pilot. 

“This plastic waste challenge is essentially an industry challenge and we are looking for industry partners,” says Eli Browne, director of corporate sustainability, Sobeys. “We're casting our net wide, calling all the innovators and entrepreneurs out there to look for a commercially viable and sustainable alternative to meet empty food packaging, which tends to be made of un-recyclable packaging materials.”

The Plastic Waste Challenge is open to legal residents of all provinces in Canada except Quebec. During the submission process, applicants will be asked to write a letter of intent, which clearly states their recyclable and environmentally sustainable solution for fish and meat packaging. Those selected will have three months to develop a prototype and prepare a pitch presentation for a panel of judges.

“As one of Canada's largest grocers, I think we recognize the role and responsibility that we have to eliminate hard-to-recycle, single-use plastics from our business,” Browne says. “I think this is us acknowledging the responsibility that we have and the role we can play and the leadership that we can play in this space.”

While this challenge in particular is focused on the meat and seafood category, Browne says Sobeys is currently looking into even more sustainable options for customers.

Later this summer, Sobeys will release its 2022 sustainability report, which will further outline a series of new initiatives.