BOSTON -- Environment America Research & Policy Center, U.S. PIRG Education Fund and more than 130 additional groups from coast-to-coast mailed Whole Foods CEO John Mackey a letter Thursday calling on him to commit to concrete and verifiable steps that reduce the company’s plastic footprint. This is the coalition’s second letter imploring the market to make this change, and it comes on the heels of a Greenpeace report released last week that found the chain was failing on its policies and practices aimed at eliminating plastic waste.
Specifically, the letter says that the company needs to commit to steps that eliminate single-use plastic packaging from its stores by Amazon’s annual shareholder meeting in May 2021. These steps include: A 25 percent reduction in the amount of single-use plastic packaging units sold by the 365 Everyday Value product line by 2025; a commitment to generate 15 percent of annual revenues from the sale of products packaging in reusable packaging by 2025; and a public report on the company’s plastic footprint by 2022. Other groups who signed onto the letter include Greenpeace USA, Oceana and The Plastic Pollution Coalition. In October, several groups in the coalition sent its first letter to Mackey, but received no response.
“To protect marine species, companies like Whole Foods, who are responsible for this source of plastic pollution, must act to put the planet over plastic by committing to a bold path forward on reducing plastic waste,” said Kelsey Lamp, Protect Our Oceans campaign director for Environment America Research & Policy Center. “The rising tide of plastic entering our rivers and oceans each year can harm and kill turtles, seabirds and fish. This plastic is a clear example of a culture that prioritizes a moment's convenience over the long term health of our planet and we clearly must change.”
According to Greenpeace’s report, which ranked 20 U.S. grocery chains, Whole Foods scored 15 out of a possible 100 points, placing behind 10th place for its efforts on tackling the plastic pollution crisis. Notably, the market not only failed to release a bold and comprehensive policy on plastic waste, but also failed to disclose information on the company’s overall plastic footprint. For these reasons, such other supermarkets as Walmart, Aldi and Krogers performed better than Whole Foods in the report.
“Nothing we use for just a few minutes should pollute our planet for hundreds of years,” said Alex Truelove, Zero Waste campaign director for the U.S. PIRG Education Fund. “In order to protect our environment and the health of communities from plastic pollution, we must hold the companies that package their products in single-use plastic responsible. We know that better alternatives to single-use plastic packaging exist, and Whole Foods, along with other companies like it, need to transition to more sustainable forms of packaging.”
Studies show that 15 million metric tons of plastic litter enter our oceans each year. This is the equivalent of two garbage trucks dumping a load of plastic into the sea every single minute and it's devastating for wildlife because birds, fish and other species, like turtles, can so easily mistake small pieces of plastic for food. Nearly 700 types of marine animals, as well as more than 50 freshwater species, have ingested plastic or become entangled in it, often with deadly results.
"While Whole Foods improved slightly in this year's ranking, it continues to drag its feet on committing to bold, comprehensive reforms to eliminate single-use plastics," said Greenpeace USA Plastics Project Leader Kate Melges. "Whole Foods has developed a reputation as a company that cares about sustainability, but it continues to fail its customers on tackling the plastic pollution crisis. It is time for the retailer to significantly reduce its throwaway plastics and shift toward reuse and package-free solutions."
In addition to the coalition letter, Environment America Research and Policy Center, U.S. PIRG Education Fund and several other groups in the coalition have gathered tens of thousands of petitions, hosted public events with more than 200 attendees, and held other public communication events.