AUSTIN, Texas -- Environment America Research & Policy Center, U.S. PIRG Education Fund and Student PIRG sent 59,000 petitions and a letter signed by more than 40 state lawmakers Thursday to Whole Foods urging the company to commit to a comprehensive plan for phasing out single-use plastic packaging from its stores. This follows a March 2021 letter signed by more than 130 advocacy and community groups calling on the national supermarket chain to adopt a bold response to the plastic pollution crisis.
“Americans treasure the ocean and the dolphins, whales, and sea turtles that swim in its waters, which is why the idea of plastic pollution is distressing,” said Kelsey Lamp, Protect Our Oceans campaign director for Environment America Research & Policy Center. “People looking to reduce their plastic intake shouldn’t have to choose between shopping for groceries wrapped in single-use plastic and going without everyday essentials. That’s why tens of thousands of people are calling on Whole Foods to turn the tide on plastic pollution by transitioning to reusable and packaging-free alternatives.”
The call on Whole Foods to reduce its reliance on single-use plastics follows a report from As You Sow, a nonprofit organization, that found the high-profile supermarket earned a failing grade and had fallen behind such competitors as Costco and Walmart when it came to tackling plastic waste. Greenpeace also recently released a report that awarded Whole Foods just 15 out of a possible 100 points on its policies and practices aimed at eliminating plastic waste.
Notably, to date, the supermarket has not only failed to release a bold and comprehensive policy on plastic waste but has also failed to disclose information on the company’s overall plastic footprint. For those reasons, other supermarkets, including Walmart, Aldi and Krogers, performed better than Whole Foods in the report.
“All this single-use plastic packaging is a clear example of a culture that prioritizes a moment’s convenience over the long-term health of the planet and our communities,” said Alex Truelove, Zero Waste campaign director for the U.S. PIRG Education Fund. “This plastic waste is clogging our landfills, littering our streets, and polluting our parks. To move beyond plastic will require concerted action by corporations and our elected officials working towards a future where plastic waste is a thing of the past.”
Every year, an estimated 15 million metric tons of plastic litter enters the ocean -- the equivalent of two garbage trucks dumping a load of plastic into the sea every single minute. It is the number one item of trash polluting beaches worldwide in 2019, according to the Ocean Conservancy. For consumers, plastic packaging in grocery stores is particularly unavoidable, as they face a choice between purchasing needed items wrapped in plastic or going without the item all together.
Lawmakers from 11 states, ranging from Texas to Massachusetts, have signed on this letter. They include: California Speaker Pro Temp Kevin Mullin, Massachusetts state Rep. Marjorie Decker, Texas Speaker Pro Temp Joe Moody, and Washington state Sen. Jamie Pedersen.
The public and elected officials are not alone in raising these concerns. The investor community has also taken note of the excessive use of single-use plastic packaging by Whole Foods and its parent company, Amazon. In December, a shareholder resolution was filed urging Whole Foods and Amazon to reduce their use of single-use plastics. Shareholders will have the opportunity to weigh in on this issue directly when the resolution is put to a vote at Amazon’s annual shareholder meeting, which will be held virtually on May 26.
“Nothing we use for just a few minutes should pollute our rivers and oceans for hundreds of years,” Lamp said. “That’s why the companies that rely on single-use plastic to package their products must adopt more sustainable packaging options or eliminate packaging altogether. Change is possible and Whole Foods should lead the way to a future where we put the planet over plastic.”