Trader Joe’s Reduces Plastic Packaging Following Consumer Pressure

Trader Joe’s outlined a new sustainability framework for plastic packaging late last year following pressure from consumers to reduce waste. Now the grocery store chain is making more changes at their stores, according to SFGate.

Customers had criticized the retailer for overuse of plastic packaging, particularly for produce, Alix Martichoux reported for SFGate. One petition on Change.org went viral and gained more than 66,000 signatures by mid-December.

On December 31, the company published an announcement saying it had taken customer feedback into consideration and began taking a careful look at packaging. A sustainability framework to help the chain and their vendor partners called for: reducing and removing packaging, sourcing renewable and recycled packaging materials, choosing packaging that can be realistically recycled, avoiding the use of harmful substances in packaging, and providing helpful packaging information to customers.

To that end, Trader Joe’s stopped offering single-use plastic carryout bags in all their stores across the country. They replaced plastic produce bags with biodegradable and compostable produce bags for carrying loose fruits and vegetables. The remaining Styrofoam produce packages were replaced with bio-based, compostable trays, the company said.

In addition, the chain worked with vendors to identify a list of substances they want to avoid in packaging such as bisphenol A (BPA) and bisphenol S (BPS), nonylphenol ethoxylates (NPEs), per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), polystyrene (PS), styrene, and phthalates. When researchers tested food-contact papers from five of the country’s largest grocery chains and their subsidiaries last year, none of the 12 Trader Joe’s products had high fluorine content.

More recently, a “not-so confidential memo” inside the February edition of Trader Joe’s Fearless Flyer said the chain is introducing additional packaging changes, Martichoux reported. The company is selling more produce loose instead of bagged, replacing plastic sleeves over greeting cards with a compostable material, and replacing flower bouquet plastic wrappers with a renewable material.

“As we fulfill these steps in 2019, on an annual basis, we are eliminating more than 1 million pounds of plastic from our stores,” the flyer said, according to SFGate.

Speaking to the Kitchn, Trader Joe’s PR director Kenya Friend-Daniel said that identifying sustainable alternatives for recycling and composting is complex work, and realistic options are limited. However, she said that the customer response to the changes had been positive so far.

The 4th Annual Environmental Leader & Energy Manager Conference takes place May 13 – 15, 2019 in Denver. Learn more here.

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