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Circular Economy

Reuse Ottawa: A Canadian Case Study in Sustainable Packaging

Linear vs. Circular Economy

The linear economy is a traditional model of production and consumption where resources are made into products, used, and then discarded as waste. The circular economy is a model of production and consumption that keeps materials at their highest value throughout their lifecycle, and recirculated into production cycles to avoid waste. How can we advance the circular economy? Purchase smartly designed products meant to last longer, be reused, refurbished, and dismantled. Support companies that offer take-back options for products after use. Embrace access to services over ownership. Use procurement and purchasing power to influence greater performance and deliver environmental and social value.

Reuse Ottawa

An innovative example of a circular economy in action is Reuse Ottawa, a reusable packaging program Circular Innovation Council is leading, soon to be launched in Ottawa. This ground-breaking market test is a collaborative effort involving some of Canada’s largest grocery retailers, with support from the City of Ottawa as the host, as well as Environment and Climate Change Canada, alongside an ecosystem of service providers (, Gate Gourmet, Bunzl/Snelling).

This model is the first to be implemented in Canada at this scale. Consumers will be able to borrow reusable containers for specific food products at select grocery stores within the defined catchment area. Other food businesses such as restaurants, eateries and cafes will be onboarded as well. Insights gained from the Ottawa pilot, including environmental and community economic benefits serve as a foundation for developing and scaling reuse initiatives to other markets across Canada.

Borrowing a reusable container will be completely cost-free and no deposit necessary for customers, an economic design of the pilot that will serve to optimize participation.  By selecting products offered in free reusable containers, consumers will make a positive environmental impact by reducing single use plastic pollution and the carbon impact associated with this packaging. To make Reuse Ottawa as convenient as possible, customers can drop-off their used containers to various return locations, from grocery stores, to restaurants to community spaces (transit hubs, municipal locations etc.).

We are thrilled to be launching Reuse Ottawa, an innovative initiative advancing circular economy solutions for Canadians. This pilot showcases the unique cooperation between retailers, service providers, the Government of Canada, and the City of Ottawa. It demonstrates a strong commitment to addressing single use plastic waste by responding to Canadians’ calls for innovative solutions.

Shannon Lavalley, Reuse Program Director,
Circular Innovation Council

Plastic Action Zone (PAZ)

Each year the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) convene an Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee (INC) to develop a plastics treaty, which is to be based on a comprehensive approach that addresses the full life cycle of plastic, including its production, design, and disposal. This year the INC-4 was held in Ottawa, with delegations, high-level representatives, partners, and stakeholders from around the world being welcomed.

During the INC-4 (held April 2024), Environment and Climate Change Canada (ECCC) hosted the Plastic Action Zone (PAZ), inviting stakeholders to host events and network, facilitating the sharing of innovations, experiences, and solutions for eliminating plastic waste and pollution through the full life cycle of plastics.

Circular Innovation Council was selected to hosted two events at the Plastic Action Zone; “Scaling Reuse through an Innovative Circular Service Model – A Canadian Case Study” Panel and the Canadian Reuse Innovator Showcase.

Scaling Reuse through an Innovative Circular Service Model – A Canadian Case Study Panel

During this session, the specifics of CIC’s unique public-private partnership was presented, including the innovative reuse shared pool model being tested, and the valuable insights it is expected to yield. Panelist included: Marilyne Girouard, Environment and Climate Change Canada; Nichole Hoover-Bienasz, City of Ottawa; Étienne Brizard, Metro Richelieu Inc.; Derek Edwards, Farm Boy Comp Inc.; and Anastasia Kiku,  They provided motivations, strategies, and lesson learned as we worked to co-design this collaborative pilot. If you would like to review the panel presentation, please fill out this form.

Canadian Reuse Innovator Showcase

Canada boasts a vibrant and varied community of reuse innovators, covering a wide range of applications. Their hands-on experience and practical knowledge play a pivotal role in expanding reuse and refill practices, particularly in sectors where single-use plastics are prevalent. Bringing together these innovators in a trade show format served as a powerful demonstration of Canada’s capability to compete internationally and make substantial contributions toward addressing the single-use plastics crisis through scalable reuse solutions for food products and beyond.

This innovator showcase offered attendees at the INC-4 a distinctive networking opportunity to witness reuse initiatives firsthand. Circular Innovation Council was pleased to be joined by the following reuse innovators during this showcase;, Circulr, The Aggressive Good, CREDDO, Friendlier, CSA Group, Bopaq, and EcoTank

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