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Sobeys turns plastic bags into benches

Grocer unveils waterfront furniture donation to continue promoting plastic reduction and reuse
The Ultimate Picnic Table, as unveiled by Sobeys Inc. today. In total, the company will divert 720,000 plastic bags from the landfill to make waterfront benches and picnic tables for public spaces along Atlantic Canadian shores. (CNW Group/Sobeys Inc.)

Sobeys has found a new way to prove its getting serious about plastic pollution: donating public furniture made entirely from recycled bags and heavier plastic bins.

The first piece, a large picnic table and bench system that seats 20, has been unveiled on the Halifax Waterfront. Other tables and benches will be introduced in Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, P.E.I. and Newfoundland and Labrador next year. Sobeys said the Halifax bench was made from 60,000 recycled plastic bags and in total 720,000 plastic bags will be recycled to make the furniture.

Concerns about plastic pollution and calls to eliminate single use plastics has been an increasingly important topic with consumers, and in July Sobeys made headlines for announcing it would eliminate all single use grocery bags from its stores next year.

“So many of our customers and our employees have told us loud and clear—they want us to use less plastic—and we agree with them,” said Michael Medline, president and CEO of Sobeys parent Empire, in a release at the time. “This is a first step, and we plan to make meaningful progress every year to take plastic out of our stores and our products.” That change will take 225 million plastic grocery bags out of circulation at Sobeys' 255 locations across Canada each year.

READ: Sobeys’ plastic bag effort among RCC winners

The tables and benches are another public way for Sobeys to demonstrate its commitment to doing something about single-use plastics.

"The bench designs bring sustainability, innovation and functionality together in a very unique way," said Vittoria Varalli, vice-president, sustainability, Sobeys Inc, in a release announcing the initiative. "Atlantic Canadian families and all who visit our region will be able to enjoy beautiful spaces like the Halifax waterfront and take advantage of tables and benches that represent the changes we all want to see--reduced plastic use and smarter recycling of plastic waste."

The tables and benches are being made by Dartmouth-based LakeCity Plastics, which provides jobs to people living with mental illness, while the plastic lumber is made by another Nova Scotia company, Goodwood Plastic Products.

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