Greenpeace report criticizes US grocery retailers lack of action against plastic pollution

Published on
June 12, 2019

A new Greenpeace report criticizes the lack of action from many U.S. grocery retailers in regard to the issues to the marine environment caused by plastic pollution. 

The report, titled “Packaging Away the Planet,” highlights 20 different grocery retailers in the United States in an assessment of the companies’ roles in plastic pollution. According to Greenpeace, every retailer assessed received a failing score for sustainability performance. 

“Grocery retailers across the country sell obscene amounts of products in throwaway plastics every single day, yet none of them are acting with the urgency needed to address the pollution crisis they’re causing,” Greenpeace Plastics Campaigner David Pinsky said. “Not only do these companies have the resources to reimagine their stores with refill and reuse systems, they can use their buying power to pressure consumer goods companies like Nestlé, Coca-Cola, and Unilever to act as well. The question is whether retailers will take responsibility for this mess, and act.” 

The report scored each company based on its current policies, plans for reduction of plastic waste, whether it has any initiatives or innovations to reduce plastic waste, and how transparent the company’s policies are with plastic waste. 

The scores were put into a scale, with zero to 39.9 points considered failing, 40 to 69.9 passing, and 70 to 100 excellent. Aldi, the highest-scoring company, achieved a 34.6, because it has a plastic reduction target, a “more comprehensive reduction plan,” transparency, and a commitment to refill and reuse systems. Second-placed Kroger also scored well due to its commitment to banning all single-use checkout bags. 

Low scorers Meijer, Wakefern, and H-E-B; which all scored in the low single-digits; had “zero comprehensive public commitments to meaningfully tackle their role in the plastic pollution crisis,” according to Greenpeace.  

The report goes on to highlight the problems that plastic pollution poses for the environment, especially the oceans, where plastic has been found throughout the water column. 

“Single-use plastics are used for moments and then last lifetimes. Plastic never goes away; it fragments into smaller pieces that disperse throughout the natural environment,” the Greenpeace report states. “Toxic microplastics are eaten by marine animals, which are then consumed by people all over the world as seafood.”

The report also asserts that recycling plastics is not a viable solution to reducing waste.

“Globally, only 9 percent of the plastics ever made has actually been recycled, and some experts project 2019 U.S. plastics recycling rates could drop below 3 percent,” the report states.

The report, according to Greenpeace, will serve as a baseline as the organization advocates for reforms to grocery stores’ policies regarding single-use plastics. 

“It’s not enough for a retailer to eliminate plastic straws or make small changes to produce bags and walk away from this issue,” Pinsky said. “Retailers must develop comprehensive public policies to eliminate single-use plastics, and remain transparent with customers as they implement those plans.” 

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