Report: The Smart Supermarket

by Kate Melges

November 12, 2019

A new report envisions supermarkets without single-use plastics and packaging.

A new Greenpeace USA report 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.

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.

“Supermarkets are the places where Americans encounter the most single-use plastics,” says Greenpeace Plastics Campaigner Kate Melges. “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.”

Solutions highlighted in The Smart Supermarket report and are 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.

To read the full report, click here.

Kate Melges

By Kate Melges

Kate Melges is an oceans campaigner based in Seattle. She leads Greenpeace’s Ocean Plastics work. Kate’s focus is ending the flow of plastic pollution into the ocean.

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