Massachusetts groups urge Whole Foods: Reduce Plastic Packaging

Organizations launch campaign after chain falls behind others on plastic waste

Press Release

-For Immediate Release-

Press contacts:
Janet Domenitz, MASSPIRG Director, 617-308-9109, [email protected]
Ben Hellerstein, State Director, Environment Massachusetts Research & Policy Center, 914-420-9706, [email protected]
Alex Truelove, Zero Waste Campaign Director, U.S. PIRG Education Fund, (215) 630-7250, [email protected]
Josh Chetwynd, Communication Manager, (303) 573-5558, [email protected] 

Boston — MASSPIRG Education Fund, MASSPIRG Students, Environment Massachusetts Research & Policy Center, and other nonprofits launched a campaign on Tuesday calling on Whole Foods to change its practices on plastic packaging. The groups’ 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.

Along with Environment America and U.S. PIRG affiliates in other states, as well as the Plastic Pollution Coalition and BRINGiT, the organizations are asking Whole Foods to lead by eliminating 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 coalition, along with Greenpeace, have already sent a letter to John Mackey, Whole Foods’ CEO urging him to take action on tackling plastic waste. 

“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 Janet Domenitz, MASSPIRG’s Director. “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.”

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.

“Plastic packaging isn’t on our shopping lists when we go to the grocery store — but it’s almost impossible to walk away from a Whole Foods without a basket full of plastic,” said Ben Hellerstein, State Director for Environment Massachusetts Research & Policy Center. “Plastic pollutes our oceans for centuries and harms whales, sea turtles, and other wildlife. We should expect better from a supermarket known for its environmental values.”

Nearly 140 cities and towns in Massachusetts have adopted policies to reduce the use of plastic bags, and 47 municipalities have restricted polystyrene, commonly known as Styrofoam. Legislation filed by Rep. Lori Ehrlich and Sen. Jamie Eldridge would ban plastic bags statewide. Rep. Marjorie Decker and Sen. Mike Barrett have filed bills to ban polystyrene.

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 Brendan Geraghty, UMass Amherst  senior and MASSPIRG Students Board Chair. “For too long Whole Foods has not taken responsibility for the single-use plastic pollution they’re creating and this is the moment to act.”