Bulk Barn has embraced the Zero Waste movement

Bulk Barn jars
© Bulk Barn/Facebook

In glorious news for zero wasters, Canada's largest bulk food chain will accept reusable containers and bags in all stores, starting the end of February.

In one fell swoop, Bulk Barn has revolutionized grocery shopping in Canada. The largest bulk food retailer in the country has just announced that it will accept reusable containers in all stores, starting February 24, 2017. This is a monumental victory for the Zero Waste movement in Canada, since Bulk Barn has 260 locations across the nation, many of which are in small communities without access to other zero waste-friendly stores.

TreeHugger spoke with Jason Ofield, executive vice-president of the company, to learn more about this wonderful development. Ofield explained that it’s been a four-year struggle – three years spent convincing his father (Craig Ofield, president and CEO of the family business) that a pilot project was worth trying, and one year researching and developing the project with a team. He told TreeHugger:

“I approached my father and discussed climate change. [I explained] the views pertaining to society’s evolution regarding waste and what was happening with the average consumer today in the market, and how more people were cognizant of climate change and what they could really do to reduce their carbon footprint.”

The result was Bulk Barn’s initial pilot project, rolled out in October in the Liberty Village neighbourhood in Toronto. (Read TreeHugger’s story on that.) It was such a smashing success that 37 more test locations were opened in November and December. Customers were thrilled to have the opportunity to bring their own reusable containers to shop at a bulk store that sells practically everything at competitive prices.

Bulk Barn project launch© Bulk Barn -- At the launch of the Liberty Village pilot project

In Ofield’s words:

“Feedback was phenomenal. We knew what we had to do, and we knew that our consumers were demanding that we take that next step… We had to make this program national.”

Starting on February 24th, all stores across the country will welcome customers with reusable containers, as well as cloth and mesh bags. Bulk Barn has containers for sale, too, and will provide a substitute, should a customer’s container not meet the hygiene standards listed on the website.

If Bulk Barn can do it and prove it works, then there is no reason why other stores won’t follow suit, in order to compete. I, for one, know that the majority of my grocery shopping (aside from fruit and vegetables, which I get through a CSA program, and dairy) will now take place at Bulk Barn; that adds up to a hefty bill every week, and I have a lot of zero waste-minded friends who are eagerly counting down the days, too.

When asked if the stores are ready for the surge of containers, Ofield was enthusiastic. Store managers were officially told yesterday (although they must have known it was coming), and they have exactly one month to train staff and prepare for it. Ofield assured me that anyone shopping with a container will be welcomed.

And Ofield’s father, who took so long to convince? “He’s proud. He said to me, ‘Hey, you’re the evolution of the business. You’re the millennial. You understand it.’”

Thank goodness he does, because we millennials are overjoyed at this decision. Thank you, Bulk Barn, for listening to Canada’s zero waste community!

Tags: Canada | Food Safety | Food Security | Plastic Bags | Plastics | Reusability | Shopping | Waste | Zero Waste

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