Major supermarkets in the U.S. are not doing enough to reduce single-use plastics and the resulting waste, according to a Greenpeace report published March 1.
The organization analyzed 20 major U.S. supermarkets regarding their initiatives “to reduce their reliance on plastics and tackle the pollution crisis.” None received a passing grade.
Each supermarket’s score was calculated based on four categories – policy, reduction, initiatives and transparency – related to reducing single-use plastics.
A 21-question survey was sent to the supermarkets which, along with email / phone conversations and analysis of publicly available information, was used to assess their business practices and plans regarding plastics.
A summary of the overall score, along with brief explanations for the supermarkets’ efforts, or lack thereof, in each of the four categories was provided in the report.
Some of the supermarkets have smaller subsidiary chains, so a search feature on the report’s webpage allows readers to look up their local market to see if it might be part of any of the 20 major chains analyzed in the report.
Giant Eagle received the highest overall grade at 34.88 out of 100, ranking first in grades for policy (34.78), reduction (35.04) and initiatives (43.08), and fourth in transparency (25.81)
The Pennsylvania-based supermarket was ranked 16th in 2019, rising to first this year due, in large part, to its commitment to eliminate single-use plastics by 2025 by shifting to reusable / refillable packaging, as well as implementing package-free options.
Rounding out the top 10 in overall grades were: ALDI (30.61), Sprouts Farmers Market (25.83), The Kroger Company (24.06), Albertsons (21.85), Costco (20.53), Walmart (18.10), Ahold Delhaize (16.78), Wegmans (15.45) and Whole Foods Market (15.23).
Sprouts received the highest transparency score at 41.94 – the only area in which Giant Eagle was not ranked first.
Costco, Ahold Delhaize and Wegmans, along with seven other retailers that ranked between 11 and 20 in the report, did not respond to Greenpeace’s survey or inquiries. In these instances, grades were based on review and analysis of publicly available information.
The pandemic played a role in plastic usage at these chains, with many retailers shifting back to single-use plastic bags and pausing initiatives aimed at reducing plastic usage and waste.
Greenpeace urged all retailers to focus on “reduction and reuse over recycling” by ending the use of “unnecessary throwaway packaging” and single-use plastics, noting that many items that technically could be recycled end up in landfills and waterways.
“U.S. retailers are moving at a snail’s pace on plastic reduction efforts,” Greenpeace USA Oceans Campaign Director John Hocevar said in a press release announcing the report.
“There is not a single place that individuals are confronted with more single-use plastic than in our grocery stores, yet these companies continue to drag their feet and offer excuses. We have seen more greenwashing than action. It is time to turn this around.”
The full report is available here.