CalPIRG calls on Whole Foods to eliminate single-use plastic packaging

Photo of Whole Foods Market on Telegraph Ave.
Cesar Ruiz/File
CalPIRG and Environment California are calling for Whole Foods Market to serve as an example of 'environmental stewardship' for other national corporations.

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CalPIRG and other organizations recently initiated a campaign calling on Whole Foods Market to remove single-use plastic packaging from its shelves.

The campaign, spearheaded by CalPIRG and the Environment California Research and Policy Center, is a joint effort to pressure the national supermarket chain to adopt more eco-friendly practices.

“It’s more important than ever that corporations like supermarkets take the lead on addressing the plastic pollution crisis,” said Claudia Deeg, CalPIRG campaign associate.

In a 2020 report released by nonprofit environmental organization As You Sow, Whole Foods received an F ranking for its efforts to reduce plastic pollution — lagging behind other chains such as Target, Walmart and Kroger. This ranking clashes with the eco-friendly image the company projects, Deeg said.

Whole Foods was the first grocery store chain to eliminate plastic bags at its checkouts, according to Elizabeth Nickerson, Environment California clean energy associate. It was also the first to ban plastic straws from being sold in its stores.

This campaign is calling on Whole Foods to lead the way once again and serve as an example of “environmental stewardship” for other national corporations, Nickerson added.

“We are coming together in order to hold Whole Foods up to this image of being a sustainable, eco-friendly brand and have them put their money where their mouth is by eliminating single-use plastic packaging from their stores,” Deeg said.

Plastic stays in the environment for hundreds of years, Nickerson noted. Single-use plastic packaging in particular is a “huge” source of plastic pollution, she said. During the 2020 International Coastal Cleanup, Deeg added, the most picked up trash item was food wrappers.

Plastic pollution damages the environment by harming marine life and clogging waterways, Nickerson said. Additionally, Deeg noted that it poses a threat to the health of people. After breaking down into microplastics, plastic can enter the food chain and eventually end up in human bodies, Deeg said.

“Plastic, compared to other materials, is especially damaging to the environment and is especially unrecyclable,” said Alex Truelove, Zero Waste Campaign director for U.S. PIRG, CalPIRG’s parent organization.

The UC Berkeley chapter of CalPIRG has made efforts to reduce single-use plastics for years, according to Sander Kushen, CalPIRG campus organizer. A CalPIRG campaign contributed to the UC system’s decision to eliminate all nonessential plastics by 2030, Kushen added.

Influencing corporations to reduce plastic use is also “critical,” Kushen said in an email.

“We look forward to helping mobilize the student voice to show Whole Foods that their consumers care deeply about protecting our environment,” Kushen said in the email. “Nothing we use for 5 minutes should be allowed to pollute our oceans and waterways for 1000s of years.”

Contact Kelly Suth at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @kellyannesuth.