Student PIRGs urge Whole Foods: Put planet over plastic by eliminating plastic packaging

Campaign launches after chain falls behind others on plastic waste

Press Release

-For Immediate Release-

Press contacts:
Kelsey Lamp, Protect Our Oceans Campaign Director, Environment America Research & Policy Center, (775) 397-5057, [email protected]
Alex Gordon, Eckerd College Chair, Student PIRGs, 713-807-0282, [email protected] 
Josh Chetwynd, Communication Manager, (303) 573-5558, [email protected]

NATIONWIDE — The Student PIRGs, Environment America Research & Policy Center, U.S. PIRG Education Fund, and other nonprofits launched a campaign alongside national partners on Tuesday calling on Whole Foods to change its practices on plastic packaging. The group’s decision comes after the supermarket chain received an “F” for its policies on single-use plastic packaging from As You Sow, an environmental shareholder advocacy nonprofit. 

The coalition will focus on convincing the grocer to eliminate single-use packaging from store shelves. The goal is to highlight the importance of this issue for consumers in all parts of the country. Members of the national group including Environment America Research & Policy Center, Greenpeace and the Plastic Pollution Coalition have already sent a coalition letter to John Mackey, Whole Foods’ CEO urging him to take action on tackling plastic waste. 

“Young people expect the companies they support to reflect their values ,” said Alex Gordon, Eckerd College Junior and Florida PIRG Students State Chair. “For too long Whole Foods has not taken responsibility for the plastic waste they’re creating and this is the moment to act.” 

According to As You Sow’s recent report that studied 50 companies, Whole Foods not only scored an “F” for its efforts to eliminate unnecessary plastic, but also performed worse than other large chains such as Walmart, Target and Kroger. The report showed that Whole Foods hasn’t adopted an overall goal to reduce company-wide packaging. It has also failed when it comes to packaging transparency. Notably, the company has not publicly reported anything on its plastic footprint, including tonnage and volume of packaging materials, -units of plastic packaging, or percentage of sales that use reusable packaging.

“Plastic packaging  is not on customers’ shopping list when they go to the market–and yet it’s almost impossible to walk away from a Whole Foods without a basket full of plastic that will pollute our planet for centuries,” said Kelsey Lamp, Protect Our Oceans campaign director for Environment America Research & Policy Center. “Wildlife, oceans, and our communities are choking on plastics and deserve better. We must prioritize wildlife over waste, and expect more from a supermarket known for its environmental vision.”

Each year, another 8 million tons of plastic enters our oceansthe equivalent of a garbage truck dumping a load of plastic waste into the sea every single minute. This senseless waste is devastating for wildlife, since a bird or fish or turtle can so easily mistake small pieces of plastic for food. Nearly 700 species of marine animals, as well as more than 50 freshwater species, have ingested plastic or become entangled in it, often with deadly results. 

“Young people expect the companies they patron to reflect their values. As a company with a reputation for selling food that is good for people and the planet, Whole Foods can make a big dent in reducing plastic pollution,” said Alex Gordan, Eckerd College student with the Student PIRGs. “Whole Foods Market once led the industry, as the first U.S. grocer to eliminate plastic grocery bags at checkout in 2008. Young people expect them to lead again.”

About Student PIRGs
Students have the right and the responsibility to shape the future we will inherit. Our chapters on 35 campuses provide the training, professional support and resources students need to tackle climate change, protect public health, revitalize our democracy, feed the hungry and more. Students have been at the forefront of social change throughout history, from civil rights, to voting rights to protecting the environment. For over 40 years we’ve helped our campus communities get organized, mobilized and energized so they can continue to be on the cutting edge of positive change.