Costco should take single-use plastic packaging off its shelves

Costco gives its customers the opportunity to buy nearly everything they may need … with the caveat that they will bring home ample amounts of unnecessary plastic packaging.

Beyond plastic

Rich Carey |
Matt Casale

Former Director, Environment Campaigns, PIRG

Costco is one of America’s most popular places to shop, which means that it could have a profound impact if it took single-use plastic packaging off its shelves.

But the company received an “F” for its failure to reduce single-use plastic packaging in stores, according to a report from As You Sow.

Nothing we use for a few minutes should threaten our health and pollute our future for hundreds of years. Costco’s plastic bags, lids and bottles are unnecessarily contributing to the amount of plastic pollution piling up in landfills and littering our streets and waterways — so we’re calling on Costco to commit to reducing its single-use plastic packaging.

How Costco’s attachment to single-use plastic packaging is harming our communities

When we shop at Costco, we can’t help but bring home a mountain of unwanted plastic packaging.

Not only is plastic packaging the largest contributor to our plastic waste crisis, but there are a whole host of other public health and environmental consequences that come with excessive plastic pollution — water pollution, air pollution, polluted natural spaces and more.

More than 91% of plastic gets sent to a landfill or incinerated. Incinerating waste generates air pollution that includes heavy metals such as mercury, a neurotoxin that impairs brain function, as well as cancer-causing pollutants like dioxin, one of the most toxic substances known today.

And when waste is landfilled, pollution from the landfills can seep into the environment and threaten drinking water supplies.

But the threats don’t stop there: Some waste ends up in the environment and is eventually carried into the ocean via stormwater runoff, littering and illegal dumping. An estimated 16.5 million tons of plastic ends up in the ocean every year, and that figure could grow sharply by 2040.

Enough is enough. Costco can reduce its plastic waste and even set a precedent for other wholesale stores by eliminating its use of single-use plastic packaging.

How Costco can help turn the tide on plastic pollution

It’s time for us to move beyond plastic by stopping the use of plastics we truly don’t need. Plastic packaging is a great example of this. It’s used for only a moment, and viable alternatives exist.

As a nation, we have all of the tools that we need to move beyond plastic, and Costco has the keys to that tool chest. By taking unnecessary plastic packaging off its shelves, it will reduce the amount of plastic in our communities and mitigate the harmful public health impacts that plastic pollution can have.

Plus, as we’ve seen with other wasteful single-use items such as plastic grocery bags, action from a major industry player such as Costco can set an important example for others in the industry to follow.


Matt Casale

Former Director, Environment Campaigns, PIRG

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