JAR WARS One man’s way to bottle-up action on the climate crisis

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ZAK THORUP DOESN’T BOTTLE-UP HIS FEELINGS. In fact, he puts them in bottles. He wants his customers to do the same.


Zak manages the Home Hardware store in Manuels, in Conception Bay South, N.L. He does not want to add to the climate crisis. He figures the more plastic he can eliminate the better. He does that with empty glass jars.


Zak is passionate about cutting down on plastic packaging. One day, he realized a clear alternative was all around us.


Zak stocks a shelf in his store with empty used glass jars of every shape and size, right above the bins with all the loose hardware. Customers can grab a jar, free of charge. That way they won’t need a plastic bag for their items.


“The bigger, wide-mouth ones are always best, because you’ve got some 3½-inch screws going in there,” says Zak. “Cheez Whiz seems to be the favourite.”


“We encourage everybody to bring them in, because everybody comes across glass jars in their day-to-day life,” says Zak.


“So instead of throwing them out, staff brings them in, if customers want to bring them in [they can], because during the summer, they go out as fast as they come in.”


Win-win solution

In Newfoundland and Labrador, glass isn’t accepted in curbside recycling programs. So customers can get rid of their jars, and the store can offer a cost-free alternative to plastic bags.


“It’s such a simple solution, and it gets people talking about it. That’s what I find is the best part," says Zak. “People realize the options are out there, and they should be able to expect it wherever they go, to not have to use plastic.”


There’s another store where people buy small, loose items that’s also trying to put a lid on single-use packaging.


From nails to nibbles

Bulk Barn has a countrywide program that encourages customers to bring their own jars or containers.


“Everything has been positive. Everyone is super-pumped,” said Kim Doucette, manager of Bulk Barn in St. Johns, N.L.


“We have customers that aren’t maybe aware of the program, and they’re in line behind people who are doing the program. And they’re very interested in it, they’re asking questions. They’re coming in, next time they come in, like, ‘Hey, I brought my jar! I brought my cloth bag!’”


Since last year, Bulk Barn has seen a 50 per cent increase in customers choosing glass containers over plastic bags.


Reducing single-use plastic packaging is an important part of combating pollution and climate change, but who needs to make the changes for that to happen?


“It’s the retailers and the manufacturers’ responsibility to reduce plastic,” says Zak, “even more than our responsibility as individuals.”


This article was originally published by The Canadian Labour Institute.  

Reprinted with permission for CALM Members use.