Greenpeace report envisions supermarket without single-use plastics and packaging

by Perry Wheeler

November 12, 2019

Washington, DC – A Greenpeace USA report released today walks readers through The Smart Supermarket, a hypothetical store that has moved beyond single-use plastics and packaging. As retailers grapple with how to transition away from throwaway packaging, the report outlines examples from around the world — throughout store aisles to the checkout counter — of supermarkets moving beyond single-use plastics and packaging.

“It’s time to build smarter supermarkets,” says Greenpeace Plastics Campaigner Kate Melges. “Globally, we’re starting to see examples of retailers moving away from plastics and throwaway packaging, but not at the urgency and scale needed to address this crisis, especially in the U.S. market. This report should serve as a model for retailers to follow, and shows that it is possible to end our throwaway culture for the sake of our oceans, waterways, and communities.”

Solutions highlighted in the report and already implemented by companies around the world include:

  • Removal of unnecessary plastic packaging on produce. Laser food labeling is an option for certain products. If packaging is needed, stores can source local, natural materials that have minimal impact on the environment, like banana leaves.
  • Staple foods purchased through bulk buying dispensaries and self-service weighing scales. Customers can utilize reusable containers and buy the exact quantity of food they need.
  • Stock single-use packaging-free beauty and home care products. Retailers should work with suppliers to create cosmetic and cleaning products that do not require a plastic bottle to transport or sell, and develop refill systems.
  • For to-go meals, launch reward options for reusable cups and containers. Retailers can utilize technology for on-site management to strengthen the return rate of reusables.
  • At checkout, ditch single-use plastic bags and incentivize customers to bring reusable bags. Retailers can implement borrow or rent-a-bag schemes for customers who forget to bring them.
  • Work with consumer goods companies to develop reusable packaging for online deliveries. Establish deposit return schemes to incentivize reuse.

The report acknowledges that there are benefits and challenges to each of these potential solutions to the plastic pollution crisis. It urges retailers and consumer goods companies to work together to accelerate a shift away from single-use plastics and towards reuse systems.

“Supermarkets are the places where Americans encounter the most single-use plastics,” Melges continued. “It is up to consumer goods companies and retailers to work together to prioritize real solutions that end our dependence on throwaway plastic for good.”

Earlier this year, Greenpeace USA ranked 20 of the largest U.S. supermarkets on their efforts to eliminate single-use plastics. The assessment found that across the board, retailers are failing to adequately address the plastic pollution crisis they are contributing to. Greenpeace evaluated retailers on their policies, plastic reduction efforts, initiatives, and transparency. Walmart scored 19.4, Target scored 17, and Whole Foods scored 13.7 out of a possible 100 points.

The Smart Supermarket report is available here: https://www.greenpeace.org/usa/wp-content/uploads/2019/11/SMART-SUPERMARKET-How-retailers-can-innovate-beyond-single-use-plastics-packaging.pdf

Greenpeace also released a report on false solutions to the plastic pollution crisis in September: https://www.greenpeace.org/usa/research/how-companies-still-have-it-wrong-on-plastic-pollution-solutions/

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Contact: Perry Wheeler, Greenpeace USA Senior Communications Specialist, P: 301-675-8766

Perry Wheeler

By Perry Wheeler

Perry Wheeler is a senior communications specialist at Greenpeace USA.

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