Greenpeace report: U.S. retailers failing to address plastic pollution crisis

Washington, DC, June 11, 2019 – A Greenpeace report released today, Packaging Away the Planet, ranks 20 of the largest U.S. grocery retailers for the first time on their efforts to eliminate single-use plastics. The assessment found that, across the board, U.S. supermarkets are failing to adequately address the plastic pollution crisis they are contributing to. ALDI, Kroger, and Albertsons Companies scored the highest in this year’s assessment, while Meijer, Wakefern, and H-E-B were the worst.

“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,” said Greenpeace Plastics Campaigner David Pinsky. “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.”

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Greenpeace evaluated retailers on their policies, plastic reduction efforts, innovation and initiatives, and transparency. ALDI scored the highest of all retailers because it has a plastic reduction target, a more comprehensive reduction plan, greater transparency, and a commitment to implement refill and reuse systems. Kroger was the only top-five retailer to commit to ban single-use plastic checkout bags and has joined Loop — a new refill and reuse initiative, but the company has not yet released a comprehensive plastics reduction plan. Albertsons scored near the top for its commitment to decrease plastic usage, but the company has not yet set an overall reduction target.

Trader Joe’s finished fourth in the ranking, as it has begun to eliminate unnecessary plastic packaging from its stores nationwide. Sprouts rounds out the top five, as the retailer is actively engaging suppliers and experts to develop a more comprehensive strategy on single-use plastics. Walmart, Hy-Vee, Target, Costco, and Wegmans finished in the top 10, but all have a long way to go toward implementing comprehensive plans to address throwaway plastics. Notably, while Whole Foods recently announced a handful of initiatives on plastics, the retailer finished in 11th for its failure to act at the scale needed to tackle the pollution crisis.

Greenpeace’s report utilized a combination of publicly available information and survey responses to formulate the retailers’ scores. None of the supermarkets scored above 35 out of 100 this year. This year’s report will serve as a baseline for what Greenpeace expects will be significant reforms in the near future.

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

Greenpeace plans to follow up with retailers to assess progress on plastic reduction initiatives, and report those efforts publicly. Last year, the organization released the 10th edition of Carting Away the Oceans, which similarly ranked retailers on sustainable seafood efforts.

To read the full Packaging Away the Planet report, please visit: https://www.greenpeace.org/usa/wp-content/uploads/2019/06/packaging-away-the-planet.pdf

For a scorecard of how the 20 retailers ranked, please visit: https://www.greenpeace.org/usa/wp-content/uploads/2019/06/2019-supermarket-plastics-scorecard.png