Eliminating Plastic Pollution at Retail
Move Over, Paper Straws…
The next big trend in plastic alternative utensils will be ones that you can eat. Incredible Eats’ incrEDIBLE spoons are a new crunchy eco-friendly alternative to plastic. Lightly flavored IncrEDIBLE spoons, crafted from plant-based ingredients, including non-GMO wheat, corn, oats, brown rice and chickpeas, are made to withstand hot or ice-cold foods for 30 minutes. They can be used with foods such as soup, yogurt, ice cream, oatmeal, cereal, pasta and rice. incrEDIBLE spoons are dairy-free, vegan and made in a nut-free facility. The spoons are available in sweet and savory flavors, including chocolate, vanilla, oregano chili and black pepper. According to the company, edible utensils offset 200% of all plastic and carbon produced during manufacturing and shipping. Plus, for every 20 boxes sold, the Milpitas, Calif.-based company plants one tree.
Other products are already in the works at Incredible Eats. Edible Sporks are planned for winter 2021, and Edible Straws/ Chopsticks will most likely be released sometime in 2022.
Retail Singles Out Single Use
PCC Community Markets, one of the largest community-owned food markets in the United States, said in July that it will stop selling plastic water bottles smaller than 1 gallon, eliminating the sale of nearly 100,000 single-use plastic bottles across PCC’s 15 stores each year. This move is part of the Seattle-based co-op’s ongoing mission to reduce use of petroleum-based plastics.
PCC is already working to eliminate all petroleum-based plastics from deli packaging by 2022; in 2019, it switched deli round containers from petroleum-based plastic to plant-based compostable, eliminating more than 8 million pieces of petroleum-based plastic per year.
Aligned with the updated water bottle ban, PCC has worked to provide shoppers with more sustainable options, including water sold in refillable and reusable aluminum bottles. Rather than single-use cans, these bottles are sturdy enough to be reused multiple times, and if it gets damaged, the bottle can be easily recycled. Additional ways that PCC provides alternative options for water containers include:
- Bulk water dispensing;
- Boxed water (in packaging similar to milk cartons), which is 92% plant-based, recyclable in the Puget Sound region and made from Forest Stewardship Council-certified paper; and
- Water in glass bottles, which are reusable and recyclable.
“PCC’s focus on eliminating petroleum-based plastics is an absolute priority,” says Brenna Davis, PCC’s VP of social and environmental responsibility. “It is a critical concern for the co-op to address, with plastics being tied to land and water pollution, human exposure to chemicals, and contributions to climate change through plastic production. At PCC, we are continually looking to support the environment and provide our shoppers with sustainable alternatives.”
Another retailer that removed single-use water bottles earlier this year is New Seasons Market. But the Portland, Ore.-based Certified B Corp grocer isn’t stopping there in its mission to reduce single-use plastic. It recently expanded its GO Box program to more departments across all stores. Through a subscription service, customers can now choose reusable GO Box containers to purchase items in the deli, bakery, produce, olive bar and bulk departments. To date, the GO Box reuse cycle has helped the retailer eliminate more than 16,600 pieces of single-use waste from communities.
New Seasons has also added more environmentally preferable tubs in its grab-and-go and produce departments. The 16-ounce containers -- with more sizes coming soon -- are lighter in weight, with a tamper-evident button instead of a wasteful strip, reducing total plastic by 10%. The tubs are made of 100% recycled PET and sourced from curbside recycling bins along the West Coast, resulting in one-ninth the transportation emissions due to their local origins.
Sustainability is also incredibly important at Aldi U.S., one of the nation’s fastest-growing grocers.
“As a leading retailer, we’re striving to limit the use of plastics and packaging anywhere we can,” says Joan Kavanaugh, VP of national buying at Batavia, Ill.-based Aldi U.S. “We want to be a part of the solution, and we’re committed to shaping a new future of plastics use. In 2019, we committed to making 100% of Aldi-exclusive packaging – including plastic packaging – reusable, recyclable or compostable by 2025. Also, by 2025, we committed to reducing packaging by 15% overall. Already this year, we have made significant strides toward these goals, and we are proud of our progress.”
More than 90% of the products that Aldi sells are exclusive items.
By the end of 2021, Styrofoam, a type of plastic material, will be removed from all of the retailer’s produce packaging. To date, Aldi has redesigned packaging to remove or reduce excess plastic from products such as teas and bread. Packaging redesigns have resulted in the removal of more than 250 tons of excess plastic packaging from its products. In select stores, Aldi is also introducing alternative packaging such as top-seal produce containers for perishables like blueberries and tomatoes, which use 20% less plastic than traditional containers. In a majority of markets, Aldi’s mixed bell peppers now use 44% less plastic.