The Recycling Challenge
You see them every time you visit the grocery store. Clear plastic containers are a food industry favourite, protecting and displaying supermarket staples like berries, eggs, tomatoes, salads, chickens and cookies. These clamshells, salad containers, blister packs and bakery and deli trays are known as thermoformed packaging—one of the fastest growing container categories on the market. While these rigid packaging materials may all look the same, that’s not the case. Some containers are made from a clear, crystalline form of polystyrene, others from PolyEthylene Terephthalate (PET)—also used for plastic bottles. Mixed together, they’re of little use as raw materials for new products—but most municipal sorting centres lack the technology to tell the difference.
The Sustainable Solution
The Big Grocers Demand Pet Plastic
Representatives of Stewardship Ontario worked closely with the Retail Council of Canada (RCC), the country’s leading grocery chains and other recycling experts to find ways to put more PET in the province’s Blue Boxes, and feed industry demand for bales of this easily recyclable material. In June 2011, Loblaw, Sobeys, Metro, Walmart and Safeway announced that they would accept only PET containers from their suppliers—so they could be recycled with soft drink bottles. The group also teamed up with the National Association for PET Container Resources (NAPCOR) to source a label adhesive that’s easy to remove during the recycling process—to ensure an uncontaminated stock of recycled materials for resale.
Municpal Reycling Campaigns
At the same time, Ontario’s Plastic Is In campaigns in municipalities were stimulating the supply of rigid plastic containers in curbside Blue Boxes, which directly benefited. And bottled water manufacturer, Ice River Springs’ Recycling Division, which now uses a mix of PET bottles and supermarket shells to create 100 per cent recycled bottles.
Greenhouse Gas Reductions
The entire supply chain was actively involved in this packaging initiative. It has increased the range of materials that make their way into the Blue Box, as well as the supply of post-consumer materials available to create new products right here in Canada. Plus, using post-consumer PET produces only one tenth of the greenhouse gas required to create new resin from fossil fuels.
The Blue Box Collaborators
Stewardship Ontario’s Blue Box
A not-for-profit organization funded and governed by the industries that make and market the products and packaging materials recycled through the programs it manages—the Blue Box and Orange Drop.
In 2011, Walmart Canada’s 173 discount stores and 199 supercentres diverted 77 per cent of their waste, for a total of 150,891,779 kilograms.
Loblaw Companies Limited
1,000+ supermarkets, 14 million weekly shoppers, and revenues of $30 billion. In 2011, Loblaw achieved a 78 per cent waste diversion rate in its corporate distribution centres.
Safeway Inc. operates 224 stores in western Canada. The company diverts approximately 491,400 tonnes of waste from landfills in Canada and the US.
1,300+ supermarkets and sales of over $14 billion, Sobeys diverted 48 per cent of all waste from landfill in 2012.
Retail Council of Canada
RCC represents over 43,000 stores across Canada.
Has revenues in excess of $11 billion and has contributed over $37 million to the cost of recycling in Quebec and Ontario since 2004.
The National Association for PET Container Resources promotes PET container sustainability and recycling.