New survey report reveals Whole Foods’ failure to cut back on plastic waste

Media Contacts

Los Angeles, CA –  CALPIRG Education Fund, Environment California Research & Policy Center and Frontier Group released a new report on Thursday that surveyed plastic packaging used on Whole Foods’ in-house 365 brand products. The report, entitled Whole Foods Plastic Problem: A survey report on single-use packaging at Whole Foods, finds that despite the company’s efforts to reduce plastic use, customers have limited opportunities to purchase 365 brand items without plastic packaging, with fewer than 50% of the products surveyed available in plastic-free packaging in the majority of Whole Foods stores. 

“Plastic waste is clogging our landfills, littering our streets, polluting our parks and escaping into our rivers and oceans at a rate of 8 million tons a year. Plastic packaging, like plastic food wrappers, topped the list of most commonly found items of trash polluting our beaches,” said Jenn Engstrom, State Director of CALPIRG Education Fund. “To reduce the effects of plastic pollution, corporations need to do their part to eliminate single-use plastic packaging. Our report demonstrates that many Whole Foods food items are needlessly packaged in plastic.”

The survey classified items in three categories: full plastic, partial plastic and plastic free. Many of the products were packaged in unnecessary plastic:  yogurt, for example, was wrapped in plastic in all 27 stores.

In California, only 15% of plastic is recycled, and most plastic waste ends up in the state’s environment, littering waterways and our coastline. Last summer, California enacted the Plastic Pollution Producer Responsibility Act, which will require that all single-use foodware and packaging in the state be recyclable or compostable in the next ten years and require plastic companies to make 25% less plastic packaging.

“With food packaging accounting for a huge proportion of plastic waste in the state, meaningful progress in reducing our use of plastics and hitting the targets set out in the Plastic Pollution Producer Responsibility Act will be hard unless major food retailers step up.”

The report recommends that Whole Foods  takes fairly simple steps, such as removing transparent plastic windows on chip bags and pasta boxes and removing plastic packaging from produce, to reduce its stores’ excess plastic waste. 

“Whole Foods, once a leader on reducing plastics, is falling short on protecting our planet and eliminating waste produced in its stores,” said Steven King, Environment California Research & Policy Center advocate. “For the sake of California’s waterways and wild creatures that are choking on plastics, we urge Whole Foods to do much more to reduce unnecessary plastic packaging waste.” 

staff | TPIN

This Earth Day, put our planet over plastic

We are working to move our country beyond plastic — and we need your help. Will you make a gift in honor of Earth Day to help us keep making progress?