TORONTO – Canadian disposable plastic cuts will be boosted this year when a major retailer will launch a reusable packaging test in the nation's largest city.
The chain's identity is expected to be unveiled this spring with online operations, starting by the end of the year, says the founder of TerraCycle's Loop Recycling Company.
"I say this as Canadian, I'm very excited to get Loop in Canada, and I think it will have a very good impact on the public," says Tom Szaky, who grew up in Toronto.
Residents in the 200 to 300 km radius of Canada's largest city will be able to buy hundreds of products in reusable packaging made by some of the world's leading brands, including Proctor & Gamble, Unilever and Nestle.
Goods ranging from Haagen-Dazs to Shampoo, toothbrushes and detergents packaged in specially designed reusable containers will be ordered online from the merchant's e-commerce site and will be shipped along with other store purchases. Store purchases are expected to follow about six months later.
The project will also include the cold pressing of Greenhouse Juice Co. juice, which demonstrates that it is not only suitable for "big behemoths," he said.
The system is similar to the old milk delivery service, which was ubiquitous in the 1950s and 1960s.
"Loop is a very big reboot of an old idea but made in a very modern environment," said Szaky.
A deposit will be charged for the container that will be refunded when the scrapped ship is returned at the next delivery or at the store.
Recycling efforts are starting, as corporations – including major retailers, airlines and fast food chains – have joined a global gang to reduce disposable plastic. The material has attracted negative attention from images of a floating island of waste in the Pacific Ocean and a tangled ocean wildlife.
Retailers, including Ikea, Walmart, KFC, A & W, Starbucks and Subway, have promised to remove plastic straws and look for plastic caps and utensils alternatives. Air Canada says it will replace millions of wooden sticks on all flights starting this summer. Tim Hortons's parent company said it would unveil its efforts to tackle the problem in the coming months, begin testing a new cover without a drop this year, and increase the amount of recycled content in the packaging.
Retailers, suppliers, consumer goods companies and governments are taking action after the study has revealed the size of the challenge, says Kathleen McLaughlin, Chief Sustainability Director at Walmart Inc.
The world's largest retailer has promised in Canada to further reduce plastic bags, replace plastic paper straws and eliminate "hard-to-recycle" PVC, expanded polystyrene and unnecessary plastic packaging in all of its private label products.
McLaughlin denies that Waltmart simply deals with public relations exercises.
"No, it's real action," she said in an interview. "We are trying to change the way people produce and consume products."
Loblaw Companies Ltd. says he is looking for solutions for both plastic waste and food waste and has taken action to reduce plastic bags for inspection, to increase packaging for recycling and to eliminate synthetic microspheres in private label products.
"The challenge of plastics will not be solved through one-off action, it requires the work of industry, government and consumers – and a system built to address environmental, social and business opportunities and risks associated with waste," Kevin said. Grox wrote in an email.
Metro Inc. expects to present its approach to reducing waste, including plastic, by the middle of the year. Sobi says he agrees with customers who complain that he has too many plastic packaging, adding that he works with suppliers and industrial partners to reduce the amount of plastic used in packaging and other products.
Although it agrees that plastic waste is unacceptable, the Canadian plastics industry is rejecting attacks against a light, cost-effective product that prolongs product life and maintains food safety.
"I do not think these companies are fully aware of science," said Joe Hruska, vice president of sustainability at the Canadian Association of the Plastic Industry. "They're like any company, reacting to consumer pressure and consumers just do not know the facts."
He points out a 2016 study by Trucost, a data analyst and risk analyst, who concludes that replacing plastics with alternative materials would increase almost four times the environmental cost as less plastic material is used "over Whole life cycle "of products.
Canadians generate about 3.25 million tonnes of plastic waste, or about 140,000 waste trucks each year, according to Greenpeace Canada.
Sarah King, head of the ocean and plastic campaign for the environmental group, says too much is relying on improving recycling or increasing recycled content, although only 10 to 12% of the goods are recycled in Canada.
Too long the burden has been unfairly put on consumers to better recycle and dispose of properly, instead of asking the big corporations that produce the packaging to find alternatives, King said.
"We want to go back to a model that is more holistic and less disposable," she said.
Szaky said that Loop puts the ownership of the containers back to the manufacturers who will then be motivated to make the packaging durable.
The system will begin in New York and Paris this spring.
Additional Canadian cities that are likely to start in the western provinces will be added as a built distribution network.
Loop is just one of the many strategies that need to be applied to tackle the problem, says Tony Walker, an assistant at the Dalhousie University Resource and Environmental Research School.
"There is no answer to this problem, which is a very complex environmental challenge, so there is no silver bullet, we just have to hit it with a lot of decisions."