Washington groups urge Whole Foods: Put planet over plastic and eliminate plastic packaging

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Josh Chetwynd

Organizations launch campaign after chain falls behind others on plastic waste

Environment Washington Research & Policy Center

SEATTLE, WA — Environment Washington Research & Policy Center, WashPIRG Foundation and other nonprofits launched a campaign in Washington alongside national partners on Tuesday calling on Whole Foods to change its practices on plastic packaging. The decision comes after the supermarket chain received an “F” for its policies on single-use plastic packaging from As You Sow, an environmental shareholder advocacy nonprofit.

Environment Washington Research & Policy Center and WashPIRG Foundation were joined by Greenpeace, the Plastic Pollution Coalition and Student PIRG chapters from coast-to-coast. The coalition will focus on convincing the grocer to eliminate single-use packaging from store shelves. The goal is to highlight the importance of this issue for consumers in all parts of the country. Some members of the national group have already sent a coalition letter to John Mackey, Whole Foods’ CEO urging him to take action on tackling plastic waste.

“Plastic packaging is not on customers’ shopping list when they go to the market–and yet it’s almost impossible to walk away from a Whole Foods without a basket full of plastic that will pollute our planet for centuries,” said Pam Clough, Acting Director with Environment Washington Research & Policy Center. “Our wildlife and our oceans are choking on plastics and deserve better. We must prioritize wildlife over waste, and we should expect more from a supermarket known for its environmental vision.”

According to As You Sow’s recent report that studied 50 companies, Whole Foods not only scored an “F” for its efforts to eliminate unnecessary plastic, but also performed worse than other large chains such as Walmart, Target and Kroger. The report showed that Whole Foods hasn’t adopted an overall goal to reduce company-wide packaging. It has also failed when it comes to packaging transparency. Notably, the company has not publicly reported anything on its plastic footprint, including tonnage and volume of packaging materials, units of plastic packaging, or percentage of sales that use reusable packaging.

“As a company with a reputation for selling food that is good for people and the planet, Whole Foods can make a big dent in reducing plastic pollution,” said Nicole Walter, Campaign Organizer with WashPIRG Foundation. “Whole Foods Market once led the industry, as the first U.S. grocer to eliminate plastic grocery bags at checkout in 2008. It’s time they lead again.”

Each year, another 8 million tons of plastic enters our oceans—the equivalent of a garbage truck dumping a load of plastic waste into the sea every single minute. This senseless waste is devastating for wildlife, since a bird or fish or turtle can so easily mistake small pieces of plastic for food. Nearly 700 species of marine animals, as well as more than 50 freshwater species, have ingested plastic or become entangled in it, often with deadly results.

“Young people expect the companies they support to reflect their values ,” said Maddie Moore, University of Washington Senior and WashPIRG Students Vice Chair. “For too long Whole Foods has not taken responsibility for the single-use plastic pollution they’re creating.”