New survey report reveals Whole Foods’ failure to cut back on plastic waste

Media Contacts
Faran Savitz

Zero Waste Advocate, PennEnvironment Research & Policy Center

 Less than 50% of the grocer’s in-house ‘365’ brand products surveyed were available in plastic-free packaging

[Philadelphia] –  The PennEnvironment Research & Policy Center and the U.S. PIRG Education Fund released a new report on Thursday that surveyed plastic packaging used on Whole Foods’ in-house ‘365’ brand products across the country. The report, entitled “Whole Foods Plastic Problem: A survey report on single-use packaging at Whole Foods”, finds that despite the company’s efforts to reduce plastic use, fewer than 50% of the products surveyed available in plastic-free packaging in the majority of Whole Foods stores. 

“Plastic waste is clogging our landfills, littering our streets, polluting our parks and escaping into our rivers and oceans at a rate of 8 million tons a year. It’s the most common form of litter in Pennsylvania,” said Faran Savitz, the zero waste advocate with the PennEnvironment Research & Policy Center. “To reduce the effects of plastic pollution, corporations need to do their part to eliminate single-use plastic packaging. Our report demonstrates that Whole Foods food is not doing their part.”

The survey classified items in three categories: full plastic, partial plastic and plastic free. Many of the products were packaged in unnecessary plastic:  yogurt, for example, came in plastic containers in all 27 stores. Three of the Whole Foods locations surveyed were in Pennsylvania, including in Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, and Jenkintown.

“Plastic litters our communities and threatens the health of wildlife and Pennsylvanians” said State Representative Tim Briggs (Montgomery County). “It’s vital for Whole Foods and other companies responsible for creating plastic waste to recognize their impact and help make a change”. 

“Plastic packaging has no place in a sustainable brand like Whole Foods. From extraction to disposal plastics create toxic emissions, pollute our environment, and contribute to global warming. The bulk of these harmful impacts are experienced where extraction and disposal facilities are located—and disproportionately in communities of color” said Alex Danovitch, Principal at Nothing Left to Waste. “Recycling will never be the solution to all plastic packaging. Whole Foods needs to take responsibility, starting with a just transition away from plastic and eventually reduce or replace all single use packaging with refillable alternatives.”

The report recommends that Whole Foods  takes fairly simple steps, such as removing transparent plastic windows on chip bags and pasta boxes and removing plastic packaging from produce, to reduce its stores’ excess plastic waste. 

“Reducing plastic waste is critical for the long-term health and wellbeing of our country and our planet.” said Darren Spielman, executive director of Pennsylvania Resources Council. “We know that Wholefoods can do better and I believe they should be motivated to do so.” 

“Whole Foods, once a leader on reducing plastics, is falling short on protecting our planet and eliminating waste produced in its stores,” said Savitz “For the sake of America’s waterways and wild creatures that are choking on plastics, we urge Whole Foods to do much more to reduce unnecessary plastic packaging waste.” 



U.S. PIRG Education Fund is an independent, non-partisan group that works for consumers and the public interest. Through research, public education and outreach, we serve as counterweights to the influence of powerful special interests that threaten our health, safety or well-being.

PennEnvironment Research & Policy Center is a 501(c)(3) organization dedicated to protecting our air, water and open spaces. We investigate problems, craft solutions, educate the public and decision-makers, and help the public make their voices heard in local, state and national debates over the quality of our environment and our lives.

U.S. PIRG Education Fund, PennEnvironment Research and Policy Center and Frontier Group are part of The Public Interest Network, which operates and supports organizations committed to a shared vision of a better world and a strategic approach to social change.