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Deposit-return and glass recycling: the SAQ to leverage its leadership to reduce its environmental footprint

Montreal, January 30, 2020 – The Société des alcools du Québec (SAQ) enthusiastically welcomes the government’s commitment to putting a deposit on its bottles. In conjunction with the ministère de l’Environment et de la Lutte contre les changements climatiques du Québec, Recyc-Québec and the industry, the SAQ has been analyzing various glass recovery scenarios to allow the easy return of the containers it markets. It intends to actively participate in pilot projects planned by the government over the next few months to test various options, including the use of automated bottle return systems in or near some of its stores, where possible. Aware of the expectations of the Quebec population regarding glass management, the SAQ wishes to be at the heart of this new system’s success.

The SAQ also intends to implement measures aimed at reducing glass use and encouraging reuse. As it enjoys significant buying power in the global wine and spirits industry, the SAQ intends to use its influence to bring the wine industry to change its glass use practices.

“The SAQ has a special relationship with its large network of suppliers,” said Catherine Dagenais, President and Chief Executive Officer of the SAQ. “As a government corporation, we have a duty to leverage our leadership position to shift the industry to more sustainable glass use. Taking 4RsD as a guide, we will make a tangible reduction in our use of glass. Meanwhile, the higher-quality glass recovered through the deposit-return system will enable us to continue developing initiatives to either recycle or recover all the bottles we collect, which has always been our main concern.”


The SAQ already requires suppliers of the $16-and-under wines sold in its stores to use lightweight glass bottles for their products. These wines account for two-thirds of the wines it sells. Today, the SAQ is committing to extend the policy to all wines retailing for $20 and under, which make up 88% of its sales.


Together with its partners, the SAQ wants to reinvent the bulk wine sales concept in Quebec. The company will use its customer experience expertise to develop an offer of quality wines sold in bulk in attractive settings that will surprise and seduce customers. This initiative, which is in line with current food industry trends, will encourage bottle reuse.


The SAQ hopes it will be able to rely on a local circular recycled glass industry. It is therefore assessing – in collaboration with Quebec bottlers, the Owens Illinois glassworks and other partners – various scenarios for encouraging the remelting and sale of green-coloured recycled glass containers in Quebec. Although 80% of the glass containers sold at the SAQ are green-coloured, the opportunities for reuse, in particular local remelting, are currently limited.


Because the 200 million bottles the SAQ sells each year come from the four corners of the globe and cannot all be remelted and reused locally, the SAQ is continuing its work with the Chaire de recherche SAQ sur les matériaux at the Université de Sherbrooke, now in its 15th year. To date, chair-sponsored research has found that using glass powder as a replacement for cement produces more durable concrete, largely due to increased impermeability, even as it reduces the greenhouse gas emissions related to cement production.

To increase demand for glass powder and speed its adoption, the SAQ hopes to get contract-givers involved.