How are American supermarket chains doing in cutting back on single-use plastics?

Dear EarthTalk: How are American supermarket chains doing in regard to cutting back on single-use plastics?

—Weston, Jacksonville, Fla.

Not very well, if you ask Greenpeace. The activist group compares 20 U.S. grocery chains by their commitments and actions to reduce single-use plastics in its recently released “Shopping for Plastic 2019” report. Each and every chain —even those you would think are leading the charge on reducing plastic —gets a failing score.

Illinois-based Aldi, with 1,900 stores in 36 states, ranks highest on Greenpeace’s list, thanks to its efforts to set a specific plastic reduction target and establish a more comprehensive plastic reduction plan than any of its competitors. That said, Aldi sells mostly its own in-house versions of products so the company has more control over its entire supply chain than conventional grocery retailers that draw from thousands of different producers. But beyond the product line and its packaging, Aldi has also been more transparent on its plastic practices and Greenpeace gives bonus points for the company’s commitment to implement reuse and refill systems across the entire chain.

That’s about as nice as Greenpeace gets in the report. While second-place finisher Kroger Co. gets kudos for being the only U.S. retailer of its size to phase out single-use plastic checkout bags (by 2025) and for setting plastics recycling goals for its own branded products, Greenpeace chastises the grocery behemoth with more than 2,400 stores in 31 states for not already taking much bolder steps to scale way back on single-use plastic: “These goals might have been totally rad in the 1990s, but given its size and the scale of the plastic pollution crisis in 2019, Kroger must do far more to reduce its plastic footprint.”

Greenpeace didn’t have much nice to say about third place finisher Albertsons, either, and is incensed that the company participates in Hefty’s EnergyBag Program whereby non-recyclable plastics are incinerated or turned back into fossil fuels. “Plastic incineration in any form threatens human health and the climate,” says Greenpeace. “Albertsons must immediately stop participating in this program.”

Whole Foods’ 11th place finish on the list begs the question of how the chain known for its green and healthy food selection could be so bad on plastics. Greenpeace says the chain has largely focused on recycling initiatives and using more light weight plastics but needs to “up its game to reduce and ultimately end its reliance on single-use plastics.” Whole Foods’ past groundbreaking efforts in plastics reduction —it was the first large nationwide U.S. retailer to ban single-use checkout bags as well as plastic straws and then microbeads —aren’t lost on Greenpeace. But given the scale of the plastic pollution crisis, Greenpeace says Whole Foods “needs to do much more.”

While Greenpeace is working hard to pressure these corporations to go above and beyond minimal efforts to reduce single-use plastics, it’s up to individual consumers to really drive the point home by bringing their own reusable shopping bags to the grocery store, staying away from products swaddled in unnecessary amounts of throwaway plastic, and complaining to store managers about all the plastic wrap everywhere.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Ecologist Tony Blake was among several dozen area residents who participated in Tuesday’s public hearing on the future Molly Banister Drive extension. Blake argued for preserving trail connectedness and the wildlife corridor. (Photo by LANA MICHELIN/Advocate staff).
Molly Banister road extension stays

A nearly nine-hour public hearing ends with a 5-3 vote for keeping the road alignment

A server wears a mask at a restaurant, as the COVID-19 pandemic continues in Canada and around the world. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes
Health officials receive thousands of COVID-related complaints

About 800 to 1,000 people call health officials weekly

Shaun Janse van Rensburg, a Red Deer resident, said he is tired of changing clocks twice a year. Photo by Mamta Lulla/Advocate staff
After COVID, Kenney may consider referendum on daylight savings

Albertans may be divided on several issues today, but there’s a consensus… Continue reading

The COVID-19 death toll in Alberta reached 309, according to numbers posted on the province’s website Tuesday. (Image courtesy CDC)
Another 422 COVID cases reported in Alberta and two more deaths

The Alberta government reported 422 COVID-19 cases Tuesday and two more virus… Continue reading

test tube with the blood test is on the table next to the documents. Positive test for coronavirus covid-19. The concept of fighting a dangerous Chinese disease.
COVID-19 death toll verges on 10,000 as second wave continues to surge

Nearly 10,000 Canadians have died due to COVID-19, a mark of the… Continue reading

Alice Kolisnyk, deputy director of the Red Deer Food Bank, says the agency expects an increase in demand as the COVID-19 pandemic continues. Every new subscription to the Red Deer Advocate includes a $50 donation to the food bank. (Photo by BYRON HACKETT/Advocate Staff)
Support the food bank with a subscription to the Red Deer Advocate

The community’s most vulnerable members are always in need of a hand,… Continue reading

Los Angeles Dodgers' Mookie Betts celebrates after a home run against the Tampa Bay Rays during the eighth inning in Game 6 of the baseball World Series Tuesday, Oct. 27, 2020, in Arlington, Texas. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)
Best Betts: Dodgers win first World Series title since 1988

Best Betts: Dodgers win first World Series title since 1988

Wade Sira is shown in a handout photo. Sira, the leader of Saskatchewan's pro-independence Buffalo Party, says he's extremely happy with last night's provincial election results, even though no candidates clinched a seat.THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO-Wade Sira MANDATORY CREDIT
Buffalo Party’s strong showing in Saskatchewan vote a warning to Moe: experts

Buffalo Party’s strong showing in Saskatchewan vote a warning to Moe: experts

FILE - In this Sept. 28, 2019, file photo, Christian Coleman, of the United States, celebrates after crossing the line to win the gold medal in men's 100 meter final at the World Athletics Championships in Doha, Qatar. (AP Photo/Nick Didlick)
World champion Coleman banned 2 yrs; to miss Tokyo Olympics

World champion Coleman banned 2 yrs; to miss Tokyo Olympics

Saskatchewan Roughriders kicker Brett Lauther returns to the sideline after missing his fourth field goal attempt during second half CFL action against the Edmonton Eskimos, in Regina, Saturday, Nov. 2, 2019.  It's been a very difficult year for a number of kickers this year in the NFL, but CFL veteran Lauther continues to wait for his opportunity. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Mark Taylor
Former Riders kicker Brett Lauther patiently awaiting opportunity to kick in the NFL

Former Riders kicker Brett Lauther patiently awaiting opportunity to kick in the NFL

Nashville SC midfielder Randall Leal, left, is congratulated by Alex Muyl after scoring a goal during the first half of the team's MLS soccer match against the Montreal Impact, Tuesday, Oct. 27, 2020, in Harrison, N.J. (AP Photo/Adam Hunger)
Willis gets MLS-leading 9th shutout, Nashville tops Montreal

Willis gets MLS-leading 9th shutout, Nashville tops Montreal

Kansas City mayor, star quarterback want Raptors to make Missouri temporary home

Kansas City mayor, star quarterback want Raptors to make Missouri temporary home

Djokovic, Thiem advance after slow starts in Vienna openers

Djokovic, Thiem advance after slow starts in Vienna openers

Most Read