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Reusable container pilot project coming to Ottawa grocery stores

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When Jarno van der Kolk buys groceries, he opts for to shop at NU Grocery, a zero-waste grocery store.

"Sometimes I go to supermarkets and don't buy things because there's way too much packaging and too much plastic," he said. The Ottawa resident brings in reusable containers for items like dry goods and condiments — his way of curbing plastic pollution.

Soon he'll have more options. A new federal pilot project is in the works to reduce single-use plastics at major grocery retailers and it's taking place right here in Ottawa.

"Think of things the sushi, the salad bar, the deli — these are areas of fresh food where reusable containers can be commonly used so we're starting with that area and hopefully spread to other parts of the grocery store," said Jo-Anne St. Godard, the executive director of Circular Innovation Council.

The group is leading the project in collaboration with the Canadian government and Canadian grocers Metro, Farm Boy and Walmart Canada.

Customers will be able to buy some food in containers that can be dropped back off and repurposed later on. Phase two will see the program expand, allowing people to bring back take-out containers to restaurants in the neighbourhood. Details like what the packaging will look like and for which products it can be used still need to be ironed out.

The pilot project is expected to start in early June, with testing at select grocery stores along Bank Street.

"I wish it was widespread already. I'm so sad with all the containers we throw out each week that aren't recyclable," said Ottawa resident Caroline Sutherland.

On Tuesday, the federal government announced new funding to reduce plastic waste.

"Canada is extending an additional $10 million to the global action partnership," said Environment and Climate Change Minister Steven Guilbeault.

Part of that will go to the pilot project in Ottawa.

"There's a lot of stuff in the supermarket that does not need to be in plastic. If we can get our own reusable containers, I would use it a lot more," said van der Kolk. 

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