March 2021 Coalition Letter to Whole Foods

130+ groups call on the supermarket to put Planet over Plastic
Last updated: 3/11/2021

March 11, 2021

Dear Mr. Mackey:

On October 12th, 2020 a coalition of groups sent a letter urging you to take bold action on reducing plastic waste. Now, an even larger number of groups are writing to reiterate the need for action and to demonstrate the breadth of support for Whole Foods to put Planet Over Plastic by eliminating all single-use plastic packaging from its stores.

Since the last correspondence, a study published in Nature found that the globe has reached a major tipping point in which the weight of human-made materials outweighs the total living biomass of the planet. In that same study it was found that the total mass of plastic that has been produced globally is greater than the combined mass of all terrestrial and marine animals. Just 9% of this plastic has been recycled while the vast majority is incinerated or sent to landfills. New data reveals that each year 15 million tonnes of plastic enters the ocean -- the equivalent of two garbage trucks dumping a load of plastic into the sea every single minute.

We need all hands on deck to turn the tide on plastic pollution. Supermarkets must eliminate the worst forms of plastic including single-use plastic packaging -- an item used just once and then pollutes our rivers and oceans for hundreds of years. In 2019, the Ocean Conservancy found that plastic food wrappers beat out cigarette butts as the number one item polluting beaches worldwide. By switching to food and product delivery systems that use reusable and refillable packaging,  supermarkets can replace single-use plastic packaging with a more sustainable model. Whole Foods Market can continue its leadership in supermarket sustainability by committing to a bold path forward for reducing plastic waste. 

We know that the public cares deeply about preserving a healthy, habitable planet and wants to see Whole Foods to take action on plastic waste. Several groups in the coalition  have gathered tens of thousands of petitions calling on Whole Foods to take action, and hosted events with over 200 attendees to educate the public on the problem of single-use plastic packaging at Whole Foods. In the coming months, we will have a variety of public communications and events calling on Whole Foods Market to be the leader we know it can be by putting the planet over plastic. We cannot stress enough the urgency of the plastic pollution crisis and will be appealing to the public and your customers that so greatly want to see Whole Foods Market step up and lead.

Ultimately, we want to see Whole Foods Market to eliminate all single-use plastic packaging from your shelves. And in the shorter-term, we ask that you commit to the following concrete, verifiable steps by your shareholder meeting in May 2021. They are:

  1. Reduce by 25% the number of single-use plastic packaging units sold by the 365 Everyday Value and Whole Foods-branded product lines each year by 2025.

  2. Generate 15% of your annual revenue from the sale of products sold in reusable or refillable packaging by 2025.

  3. Publicly report the gross weight and units of plastic packaging sold each year by the annual shareholder meeting in May 2022.

As you know better than anyone, customers value Whole Foods as a company that nourishes people and the planet by emphasizing organic food, healthy living, customer satisfaction, quality and sustainability. Given the scale of the plastic pollution crisis that threatens our wildlife, wild places, and public health, taking action to reduce your company’s plastic footprint is critical to the integrity of the Whole Foods brand. Whole Foods has already demonstrated its leadership by being the first national grocer in the U.S. to ban plastic straws, but more is needed. 

Now, we urge you to step up your leadership by engaging your private-label brand and national brand suppliers to achieve an overall reduction in single-use plastic packaging units sold. In a ranking by As You Sow, Whole Foods received an “F” for its failure to reduce plastic pollution, falling behind other major retailers such as Walmart, Costco and Kroger. This trend was also reported in Greenpeace’s supermarket plastics scorecard in which Whole Foods lost many points for a lack of corporate policy and transparency on reducing your plastic footprint. 

This is doable. The regional grocery chain Giant Eagle has committed to eliminating all single-use plastic in its operations by 2025; now we need a national grocer to make similarly ambitious commitments.

Whole Foods Market needs a response to plastic pollution that matches the severity of the crisis. Wildlife, wild places, and our communities depend on your leadership on this issue. We request that you respond to this letter by no later than March 26, 2021 and look forward to your response. You can reach out to Reino Hyyppa at rhyyppa@environmentamerica.org

Sincerely,

Environment America Research and Policy Center

U.S. PIRG Education Fund

350 Sacramento

350 Seattle

350 Silicon Valley

Algalita

Alliance of Nurses for Healthy Environments

Amnesty International at MSU

Anacostia Riverkeeper

Annapolis Green

Audubon Chapter of Minneapolis

Azul

Bainbridge Island Zero Waste

Beyond Plastics

Beyond Toxics

BRINGiT

BVote Climate

Californians Against Waste

CALPIRG

Center for Biological Diversity

Clean Water Action

CONNPIRG Students

CoPIRG

CURE (Clean Up the River Environment)

Earth Ministry/WA Interfaith Power & Light

Eckerd College Organization of Students

EcoRise

Elders Climate Action, SoCal chapter

Elon Sierra Student Coalition

Environment California

Environment Colorado

Environment Connecticut

Environment Council of Rhode Island

Environment Florida

Environment Georgia

Environment Illinois

Environment Maine

Environment Maryland

Environment Massachusetts

Environment Minnesota

Environment Missouri

Environment Nevada

Environment New Jersey

Environment North Carolina

Environment Oregon

Environment Texas

Environment Virginia

Environment Washington

Environmental Action

Environmental Advocates NY

Environmental Club at Rhode Island College

Environmental Defence Canada

Environmental Justice Ministry of the United Church of Christ

FracTracker Alliance

FreshWater Accountability Project 

Friends of the Earth

Friends of the Lower Olentangy Watershed

Friends of the San Juans

Friends of the Sawmill Wetlands

GAIA

Galveston Ornithological Society

Greater Akron Audubon Society

Green Cambridge

Green Newton

Greening Greater Racine

Greenpeace USA

Groundwork Rhode Island

Illinois PIRG

Inland Ocean Coalition

Iowa Recycling Association

Juanita High School Earth Corps (Green Team)

Kent Island Beach Cleanups KIBCU

Knights of Wildlife Conservation

Less Plastic Please

Little Falls Watershed Alliance

Los Angeles Waterkeeper 

Maryland Legislative Coalition 

Maryland PIRG

MASSPIRG

Middlesex Community College Sustainability Club

Minnesota River Valley Audubon Chapter

National Audubon Society

National Stewardship Action Council

NCPIRG Students

NJPIRG

No Waste Louisiana

Oceana 

Oceanic Global

Oregon Environmental Council

Organizing for Plastic Alternatives

OSPIRG

PennEnvironment

PennPIRG

PIRG Students Florida

PIRGIM

Plastic Free Delaware, Inc.

Plastic Free QAC (Queen Anne's County)

Plastic Pollution Coalition

Post-Landfill Action Network

Progreso: Latino Progress

RE Sources

San Antonio Bay Estuarine Waterkeeper 

Scubi Jew at Eckerd College

Spokane Zero Waste

Strategies For Ecology Education, Diversity and Sustainability FAU

Student Environmental Action Coalition

Suffolk Environmental Club

Surfrider DC

Surfrider Florida State University

Surfrider Foundation - Texas Coastal Bend Chapter

Texas Campaign for the Environment

Texas Physicians for Social Responsibility

TexPIRG

The Center for Oceanic Awareness, Research, and Education (COARE)

The Environmental Conservation Organization of UT Dallas

The Lands Council

The Last Beach Cleanup

The Last Plastic Straw

The Ocean Project

The Story of Stuff Project

Transition Howard County

Trash Free Maryland

Turtle Island Restoration Network

UPSTREAM

Ward 8 Woods Conservancy

Wimberley Valley Watershed Association

Wisconsin Environment

WISE

Worthington Hills Garden Club

WWU Students for Zero Waste

Zero Waste Strategies LLC

Zero Waste Washington

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