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Have you ever walked into a Bulk Barn, or any bulk store for that matter, and thought to yourself, “Man, all of these plastic bags are so wasteful”? Well, if you have, you’re not alone. Consumers have spoken, and now, finally, retailers are listening. At the end of February, Canada’s largest bulk food chain will accept reusable containers and bags in all of their stores nationwide.

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This is a monumental event for the zero waste movement in Canada. With 260 locations across the country, many of which are in small communities that lack access to other zero-waste stores, Bulk Barn’s move stands to reduce an impressive amount of waste and, hopefully, inspire other retailers to follow suit.

A spokesperson for TreeHugger website recently spoke with Jason Ofield, executive vice-president of the chain, to learn more about this new and exciting transition. Ofield expressed how it had been a long time coming, as he had conceived of the idea four years ago but then spent three of them convincing his father and Bulk Barn president CEO, Craig Ofield, that a pilot project was worth the effort. The fourth year was spent on research and development.

Jason 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.”

This led to Bulk Barn’s initial pilot project, which rolled out in October in Toronto’s Liberty Village. When these were met with incredible success, the chain decided to open 37 more test locations in November and December of last year. Many customers were more than thrilled at having the opportunity to bring their own reusable containers and bags to shop at the bulk store.

Shopping at bulk stores in general eliminates an astonishing amount of waste from excess packaging and other plastics, making this move particularly exciting for eco-consumeres who already shop at Bulk Barn to reduce waste. As Olfield said, “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.

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So, starting February 24th, all Bulk Barn stores across the nation will accept reusable containers and cloth or mesh bags. Bulk Barn will also provide reusable containers for sale and offer a substitute if the customer’s container does not meet the hygiene standards listed on their website.

Below are the four simple steps to bringing in your own reusable containers:


Will This Catch On?

I think it’s just a matter of time before other stores carrying bulk items follow Bulk Barn’s lead, if only so that they can remain competitive. There are already some stores that will allow you to bring your own containers, but I think having such a major retailer make this change will influence far more to do the same. It’s amazing to see a larger chain store like this take this action toward reducing our carbon footprint!

Bulk Barn’s decision is absolutely commendable, but did you know that there are already some completely zero waste grocery stores around the world? One opened up in Germany in 2014, for example, and since then the trend has been catching on worldwide. Generally these are easier to find in larger cities, but having a store like Bulk Barn take this initiative marks a major step in the right direction.

We can all do our part to reduce the amount of waste we produce.

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