It’s not just governments that have to deal with the growing amount of plastic waste — businesses can do their share, as well.
Canadian grocery retail chain Sobeys is one such responsible business, having opened a store with a parking lot paved using post-consumer plastics at the end of 2019.
The amount of recycled plastics used in the mixture to pave the lot at the company’s store in Timberlea, Nova Scotia is equivalent to more than six million plastic checkout bags. This way, all that plastic has been diverted from local landfills.
However, just because there is plastic in the parking that doesn’t mean the pavement isn’t up for the task — quite the contrary, it has been tested through intense thawing and refreezing to be able to “cope” with Canadian (harsh) winters.
The innovative approach to plastics reduction and reuse is part of Sobeys’ larger commitment to remove plastic grocery bags from all of its grocery stores by the end of January 2020 — a change that will take 225 million plastic grocery bags out of circulation at Sobeys’ 255 locations across Canada each year.
To make the “plastic parking lot” possible, Sobeys and Crombie REIT — developer and property manager for the Sobeys Timberlea site — have worked directly with local small business Goodwood Plastic Products to research and develop the new asphalt pavement mixture.
Previously, Sobeys worked with Goodwood Plastic Products who provided the recycled plastics lumber used for Sobeys’ Ultimate Picnic Table, which was unveiled on the Halifax waterfront in October 2019 and diverted 60,000 single-use plastic bags from local landfills. The new Sobeys Timberlea store has a picnic bench made from Goodwood Plastic Product’s recycled plastics lumber onsite for customers to enjoy.
“The post-consumer plastics parking lot and picnic bench out front, is one more way we are doing our part to integrate sustainability and innovation into our business,” Vittoria Varalli, vice-president of Sustainability at Sobeys, said at the time of the new store opening. “Projects like this represent the changes we all want to see – reduced single-use plastics, more reuse, and increased recycling of plastic waste.”
A wholly-owned subsidiary of publicly-traded Empire Company Limited, Sobeys owns or franchises more than 1,500 stores in all 10 Canadian provinces under retail banners that include Sobeys, Safeway, IGA, Foodland, FreshCo, Thrifty Foods, Farm Boy and Lawton’s Drug Stores as well as more than 350 retail fuel locations.
Although this example shows what one private company did, governments could also do similar things — namely pave parking lots of their institutions and agencies with post-consumer plastic. Alternatively — or additionally — they could also make reusing of certain plastic mandatory by businesses to spur adoption of and innovation in such technologies. Needless to say, such endeavors help local politicians advance in their careers and, sure enough, help them win votes.
Getting familiar with plastic recycling technologies is good business these days. It used to be something only specialty companies did, but now even developers can join the trend. A good idea would be to team-up with someone like Goodwood Plastic Product, which would sell or license its products and/or technology. From there, smart companies could start promoting their "plastic pavement" while eyeing government contracts as well as other businesses looking to show their green credentials by paving parking lots with post-consumer plastic. Sounds like a plan.