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Environment

Trader Joe's Makes Massive Commitment to Phase Out Plastic

Why Global Citizens Should Care
As the consequences of plastic pollution become more clear, major brands are beginning to invest in sustainable alternatives. The United Nations’ Global Goal 12 calls for responsible production and consumption to avoid environmental catastrophe. You can join us in taking action on this issue here.

From flower sleeves to meat packaging, everything is getting a sustainable makeover at Trader Joe's.

The supermarket chain detailed its ongoing commitment to phasing out single-use plastics in its stores in a press release, accelerating its sustainability efforts in response to a petition started by the environmental nonprofit Greenpeace late last year. The petition called on major grocery stores to stop using plastic because of how it pollutes ecosystems around the world.

Take Action: Urge Philippine Mayors to Implement a Zero Waste Program in Their Cities

Trader Joe’s said it will eliminate 1 million pounds of plastic from its stores in 2019 and will invest in sustainable alternatives for product packaging across a wide range of categories. The announcement builds on the company’s previous efforts to reduce plastic. For example, the company doesn’t provide single-use plastic bags at take-out, uses compostable bags for produce, and replaced styrofoam components with sustainable alternatives.

Becoming a plastic-free store is on another order of magnitude, however, and the company acknowledges the challenges that it will face as it looks for alternatives. After all, packaging for most consumer goods involves some amount of plastic.  

“We strive to balance the key role packaging plays in this effort with the overall impact packaging has on the ecosystem, as we approach making any changes,” the company said in the press release. “We are also aware that the realistic opportunities for recycling materials, along with differing understandings of what is the “best choice" for sustainability, makes this work complex.”

Trader Joe’s said it will keep customers updated as it looks for partners to help it overhaul packaging throughout its stores.

Read More: Scientists Found a Plastic Grocery Bag in the Ocean's Deepest Trench

Global Citizen reached out to Trader Joe’s for comment but did not hear back by the time of publication.

Other grocery stores have also committed to phasing out plastic. Supermarkets throughout Australia and the United Kingdom have stopped providing single-use plastic bags, multinational giants like Ikea have vowed to reduce plastic, and various small-scale stores are experimenting with no-plastic formats.

Like Trader Joe’s, these companies are responding to pressure from consumers who are alarmed by the growing environmental consequences of plastic pollution. Each year, more than 8 millions tons of plastic enter the world’s oceans, and more than 5 trillion pieces of microplastic float up and down water columns.

Read More: The Long, Strange Journey of a Plastic Bag

Animals as diverse as seabirds, turtles, whales, and amphipods have been affected by plastic pollution, and even humans are routinely contaminated by plastic.

While Trader Joe’s products account for a fraction of all plastic waste, a major company announcing a shift away from plastic could trigger competitors and players in other industries to follow suit. If enough companies take action, then the status quo of plastic packaging on store shelves could change.