- A new report from Greenpeace finds that grocery retailers are failing when it comes to reducing their reliance on single-use plastics and efforts to address plastic pollution.
- The report assessed 20 retailers with a significant national or regional presence. Although none received a passing score, those that scored best include Aldi, Kroger, Albertsons, Trader Joe’s and Sprouts Farmers Market.
- According to Greenpeace, highly vertically-integrated retailers that emphasize private labels — such as Aldi, Trader Joe’s and Costco — have a greater opportunity to make immediate and significant reductions to their plastic footprints.
Single-use plastic reduction has been in the spotlight for months, as consumer sentiment continues to favor sustainability initiatives — and Greenpeace's new report could put even more pressure on retailers to cut back on plastic bags and packaging. While many companies are making strides to reduce their footprint, more can be done, according to the organization.
Greenpeace claims that none of the 20 surveyed grocers retailers have "ambitious, comprehensive commitments commensurate with the scale of the plastic pollution crisis" to address the problem. However, the report acknowledges that some of the top five have made progress.
While Greenpeace's evaluation appears thorough, it should be taken with some caution, as results were drawn from participating companies' self-reported responses. The top five scorers in the evaluation are the same retailers that have announced recent efforts to reduce plastic packaging in their stores as part of their sustainability efforts.
Aldi has pledged fully sustainable packaging by 2025. Kroger, which was the first national retailer to commit to phasing out single-use plastic bags, is also offering reusable packaging through Loop. Albertsons has introduced new private label products and plans to reduce plastic packaging by 2025, with Trader Joe's following suit. Walmart, which was ranked sixth in the Greenpeace report, announced plans earlier this year to reduce plastic packaging for its private label products.
Sprouts is the only company among the top five that hasn't recently announced a specific plastic reduction effort; however, according to Greenpeace, the company is engaging its suppliers and experts to develop a clearer plastics policy.
Much of this recent activity can be attributed to a shift in consumer attitude toward plastic pollution. Several cities and some states have banned or are working to ban single-use plastics in some form, and a survey from Morning Consult found that 66% of Americans would have a more favorable impression of a company that instituted a new recycling policy to reduce plastic waste.
The report provides several recommendations for retailers aiming to address the plastics problem. First, Greenpeace advocates for better transparency from retailers, suggesting they track and annually disclose their use of plastics. The report also recommends that retailers prioritize reduction, with public commitments to phase out single-use plastics. Lastly, Greenpeace calls on retailers to invest in innovation to develop alternative delivery models.