- Whole Foods will eliminate plastic straws from all 500 of its stores in the U.S., U.K. and Canada by July 2019, according to a press release emailed to Grocery Dive. It will be the first national grocer to make the change.
- Plastic straws will be removed from the stores' Allegro coffee bars, juice bars and cafes. Whole Foods will instead offer recyclable, compostable paper straws upon request.
- The company has also switched to smaller plastic bags in the produce department and is replacing rotisserie chicken containers with bags that use 70% less plastic.
Grocers continue to announce measures to cut back on plastics in their stores — largely in response to consumer demand for new packaging solutions. According to a recent study from Morning Consult, 67% of consumers support companies' efforts to phase out plastic straws, and 55% of adults believe companies are not doing enough to reduce waste.
With Whole Foods' mission centered on health, wellness and sustainability, a plastic straw ban is a logical move that aligns with brand identity. The company was far ahead of its competitors in eliminating of plastic bags, which it scrapped from stores more than a decade ago.
For the most part, restaurants have led the charge in removing straws from their menus — Starbucks was the highest profile company to kick off the movement last year — but grocers have also been hard at work reducing plastic packaging and eliminating single-use plastic shopping bags. Walmart unveiled a strategic plan to significantly reduce the plastic waste in its private brand packaging in February, Albertsons announced plans to cut plastic from its Own Brands portfolio and its Plated meal kits by 2025, and Kroger’s QFC stopped offering single-use plastic bags in April. Aldi has announced plans to convert 100% of its packaging to reusable, recyclable or compostable materials by 2025, while Trader Joe's has adopted a number of sustainability-driven plastic reduction efforts.
Retailers may also be feeling a push from lawmakers, who have been increasingly focused on plastic across the U.S. Last year, California banned plastic straws from all restaurants, Maine recently became the first state to ban polystyrene foam, and Hawaii has been weighing legislation to ban plastic straws and packaging at restaurants. A number of municipalities — including Baltimore, Seattle, San Francisco and New York — have also enacted laws prohibiting foam, straws and other plastic materials.