Sobeys officially becomes first national grocer to eliminate plastic bags

Jul 31 2019, 1:00 pm

Today, Sobeys announced today that it will remove plastic grocery bags from all Sobeys grocery stores by the end of January 2020.

The change will take 225 million plastic grocery bags out of circulation at 255 locations across Canada each year.

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Following this first ecological move, the company will quickly follow with phasing out plastic grocery bags and introducing paper bags under all its other banners including Safeway, FreshCo, Foodland and others.

The most immediate next step the company plans to take will be to remove plastic grocery bags from IGA stores on Montreal Island in Quebec.

IGA will also launch a campaign in September 2019 to encourage reusable bag adoption.

“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 Empire (Sobeys’ parent company) in a release.

CNW Group / Sobeys Inc.

“This is a first step, and we plan to make meaningful progress every year to take plastic out of our stores and our products. We decided to act now instead of taking years to study and only make long-term commitments. We’re taking action now, making a tangible difference today and into the future. This is a significant first step, but it’s only a first step. We need to go further, and we will.”

While the plastic grocery bags are phased out of each Sobeys banner, the retailer will launch programs to reduce plastic in other areas of the store, encouraging customers to choose reusable bags that can be used repeatedly and returned for recycling at Sobeys stores.

  • In August, in the produce aisle, Sobeys will introduce a line of reusable mesh produce bags made from recycled water bottles to provide customers with an alternative for their fresh produce. The reusable mesh produce bags were launched in IGA in Quebec in June and received highly positive feedback from customers.
  • Sobeys has started phasing unnecessary plastic from snacking tomatoes in their Sobeys Urban Fresh store locations in Toronto. Customers are provided with recyclable paper bags which they can use to carry their tomatoes.
  • IGA stores on Montreal Island will launch a campaign in September 2019 to encourage reusable bag adoption, including:
    • Designated parking spots for customers who bring reusable bags
    • Promotional IGA offers on reusable bags and boxes to encourage customer use

CNW Group / Sobeys Inc.

“It’s time for change, and we will not stop innovating and bringing to market new ways to remove avoidable plastic from retail,” said Vittoria Varalli, Vice President of Sustainability.

“We are working with our industry partners and key stakeholders on eradicating plastics from the system. There are many factors to balance like food waste and food safety when assessing the need for packaging in the grocery retail supply chain. It will take a collective effort to drive real, meaningful change for the future.”

As part of its commitment to reducing plastics, Sobeys is partnering with a student organization called Enactus Canada on a community empowerment project accelerator, challenging young Canadians to find innovative solutions to reduce plastics for grocery retailers and Canadian consumers while encouraging behavioural change.