Bulk Barn: Follow the science. It's time for your reusable container program to re-open!

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While we’ve been dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic, the plastic crisis has not abated. On the contrary, on top of the 8 million tons of plastic humans throw out in the oceans each year, we’re now adding 129 billion face masks and 65 billion plastic gloves every month

We understand that at the beginning of the pandemic, Bulk Barn had to take precautionary measures to keep employees and consumers safe, but we know better now

The scientific community has reached a consensus that COVID-19 transmission happens primarily “by respiratory droplets among people who are in close contact with each other” [WHO], and that  “spread from touching surfaces is not thought to be a common way that COVID-19 spreads” [CDC].

In light of these facts, we ask Bulk Barn to:

  1. Re-open the Reusable Container Program as soon as possible. Many stores and coffee shops have adapted to the new health protocols while still allowing BYOC (Bring Your Own Container) ;
  2. Immediately stop the usage of single-use plastic gloves in stores. Hand sanitizer is sufficient. Plastic gloves and performative gestures focusing on excessive surface sanitation have been shown to provide a false sense of security.

Bulk Barn has an important role to play in promoting a circular economy as a big chain providing a wide selection of bulk foods with stores in many communities across Canada. Many of us had become regular customers due to your adoption of the Reusable Container Program. We look forward to returning to shop at your stores when your policies have caught up to the science and are based on current evidence about COVID-19. 

Plastic is a global crisis too, a crisis that knows no limit, from the Arctic ice to the bottom of the oceans, from Mount Everest to fish in the Amazon rivers. It will outlast COVID-19 by at least decades and has far-reaching human health impacts. We count on you to take these important steps in being part of the solution to the plastic crisis while keeping everyone safe.

Thank you, 

The Ottawa Reduces - Ottawa Réduit team: 

Elisabeth Cisa-Paré
Elise Ondet
Eugenie Waters MD CCFP
Gabriela Warrior Renaud
Josdalyne Anderson MD CCFP
Marie-Ève Bérubé MD CCFP

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This petition is endorsed by: 

  • CAPE - Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment
  • Plastic Oceans Foundation Canada
  • Plasticfree Toronto
  • Roncy Reduces
  • For Our Kids Ottawa - Gatineau
  • Zero Waste Hub Toronto
  • Ottawa south Eco action network
  • Saskatchewan Waste Reduction Council

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Art by Alireza Pakdel, @alirezapakdel_artist

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Additional resources and background information:

  1. The Toronto Public Health & Ottawa Public Health guidance issued that reusables are safe & Ontario Food Premises Regulations permit their use.
  2. Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment said reusables are safe in October 2020
  3. 130+ medical professionals & scientists signed a statement in June 2020 that reusables are safe to use during COVID, read more on  Break Free From Plastic coalition and Greenpeace
  4. Greenpeace report “Reusables are doable”, August 2020
  5. Upstream Policy Institute Inc. factsheet on safety of reusables and an assessment of the safety of single-use items vs reusables during COVID-19 
  6. City to Sea (UK & international) recommendations on reusables in the hospitality industry during COVID
  7. Rethink Disposible in the US has published a set of recommendations for the food industry
  8. In Canada, several bulk stores have continued allowing reusable containers throughout the pandemic: NU Grocery in Ottawa, Bare Market, Karma CoOp, & UnBoxed Market allow reusable containers in Toronto also, as have other businesses in BC or Alberta
  9. A reminder that air pollution kills every single day and that plastic production and post-consumer managementis one of the major emitter of toxic chemicals into the air. "Researchers estimate that some 8.8 million premature deaths annually are due to air pollution. The study says the loss of life expectancy (LLE) exceeds that of tobacco smoking."  If we look at air pollution and COVID-19, researchers from the University of Toronto say that "preliminary findings suggest that living in areas with worse air quality may make people more vulnerable once infected by this virus, and the large magnitude of this effect reported by these authors is dramatic."  Another source on this here or here.  In December 2020, a UK coroner ruled that air pollution was the cause of death for an 8 year-old girl.

Ottawa Reduces wishes to thank Zero Waste Hub Toronto for their help in compiling this list of supporting links.