Advancing reuse in Canada through innovative pilot programming

About the National Program

Circular Innovation Council will be designing and delivering a first-of-its-kind national reuse program aimed at eliminating single use plastic waste. This program is supported by a coalition of national grocery retailers including Metro, Sobeys, and Walmart Canada, and with support from Environment and Climate Change Canada and the City of Ottawa. This  will be the largest collaborative reuse program in Canada.

Starting with the delivery of a reusable food container pilot planned for launch in Ottawa in mid 2024, this national program will demonstrate scalable, convenient, and permanent solutions to reducing single use plastic packaging through innovative, collaborative reuse models.

“Reuse is a critical pathway to transitioning Canada to a circular economy and to eliminating single use plastics. The cooperation and collaboration between our participating grocery retailers and the Government of Canada is truly unique and demonstrates their commitment to addressing the plastic waste crisis. Canadians have voiced their environmental and cost concerns around the plastic crisis and are wanting innovative solutions.”  Jo-Anne St. Godard, Executive Director of Circular Innovation Council.

Ottawa Pilot - Food Container reuse in a shared pool

Photo of Ottawa, CanadaThe objective of this inaugural pilot program is to trial a unique shared-pool model between a variety of participants. The pilot will be a place based, focused initially on operating in a specific catchment area in Ottawa. The catchment area will be anchored by participating grocery retailer locations and will also include additional food-service establishments within the pilot area.

This pilot program will showcase the City of Ottawa as a progressive host advancing circular solutions, providing local economic development opportunities and will allow the transition of key learning to communities who will look to replicate this program throughout Canada.

Unique to this pilot, the reusable containers will be owned by the pilot participants in a first of its kind shared pool model.  Shared pool reuse models are those that operate with a diverse group of participants that share a pool of standardized reusable containers. These models operate pre-competitively, within short-distances, and participants manage and shared costs for reverse logistics and for cleaning and recirculating of the containers. Participants will work collaboratively and share the containers, sanitation and transportation logistics and associated costs.  This collective shared resource model will be a first in Canada for reusable containers

Consumers will be able to purchase select products in reuse containers free of charge with no deposit, from participating food service and retail locations. Consumer will only be charged for the container if it is not returned within a specified timeframe.   Each location will be required to provide a container return bin and return options will also be provided at other convenient drop off locations within the in the defined catchment area (transit hubs, municipal locations etc.).  The pilot design is based on no cost and convenience for consumers to optimize participation.

Outcomes and Objectives:

  • To establish a coalition of committed businesses, governments, and solution providers working together to deliver large-scale reuse solutions to Canadians.
  • To design and test a cooperative model where participants share essential capital and services.
  • To gather real-time data and results from the pilot program to inform the development of scalable, adaptable, and practical reuse solutions.
  • Trial standardization of container typologies capable to satisfy all participant needs and develop sanitization standards operational procedures (SOPs)
  • Design and test sanitation and distribution services and promotion through pooled communication efforts.
  • Develop and test subscription-based cooperative financial models
  • Advance and test logistical tracking technologies (RFID and QR codes)
  • Create and test effective consumer communications and marketing programs that test consumer behavior and uptake
  • Develop, track, and measure several environmental, social and economic KPIs in real time

For more information on this pilot program, please contact Circular Innovation Council here.

Hear from our founding Partners

“To address the triple crisis of a changing climate, biodiversity loss, and pollution, we must rethink the way we do business. It’s very exciting to see leadership by Circular Innovation Council and participating Canadian grocery retailers as they step forward and work together on reuse solutions to address the plastic waste problem in the food sector. This initiative will drive solutions that are convenient, sustainable, and affordable for Canadians,”  –  

The Honourable Steven Guilbeault, Minister of Environment and Climate Change.

“In launching this innovative reuse program, we’re not just working towards eliminating single-use plastics; we’re reshaping #TeamOttawa’s approach to business. My Council colleagues and I have made the environment and climate change a key priority – it’s the responsible path forward. It’s supporting retailers and consumers to work together to create a sustainable marketplace, especially reducing single-use plastics. It’s smart for the environment, smart for the economy.” Mayor Mark Sutcliffe, City of Ottawa

“I am excited the City of Ottawa is partnering in this pilot project. Its success is very achievable as we have seen retailers and consumers quickly adapt from using single-use plastic bags to using reusable bags and boxes to carry their purchases to their home. Reusable containers are a logical next step. We have all made our efforts for recycling plastics, but to make a bigger impact we need to focus on reusing. This is a just step forward to continue our movement towards a circular economy.” Councillor Shawn Menard, Chair of the City of Ottawa’s Environment and Climate Change Committee

“This is an industry-leading initiative that’s set to revolutionize packaging and we are honoured to provide our technology for ending single-use waste and driving the circular economy. I invite many more food retailers to join this consortium and be part of the solution.”

Jason Hawkins, CEO & Co-Founder of

“METRO is proud to be part of this innovative pilot project, testing the use of reusable containers in our retail stores. This project aligns with our corporate objective to reduce single-use plastic waste. By developing an efficient reusable solution, we aim to offer our customers a more sustainable way to shop in our stores, without having to compromise the quality or safety of the products they purchase.” Joe Fusco, SR. VP. Metro Operations

“Sobeys has a goal to make it easier to live plastic waste free. We have the reach and responsibility to explore new and innovative ways to eliminate even more plastics from our supply chain,” said Kristi Lalach, SVP, Legal and Sustainability, Empire Company Limited. “Participating in the design of a program that would give customers a way to reuse containers from the deli and takeaway counters is a step in the right direction for our customers, our communities, and the environment.”

“At Walmart Canada, we’re continually looking for opportunities to push the industry forward when it comes to innovative solutions around plastics reduction,” says John Bayliss, Chief Operations Officer, Walmart Canada. “We’re proud to be part of this unique project that will help to introduce Canadian consumers to collaborative reuse models and is a major step in the right direction towards our packaging goals.”