Over the past few months, Maryland has banned foam food containers and New York state has done away with plastic bags. Aldi and Trader Joe’s each announced that it would minimize plastic use, and Chipotle rolled out a strategy for waste-reduction that focusing on an unlikely culprit, plastic gloves.
Now, Whole Foods has announced that it will eliminate plastic straws from all its North America and United Kingdom stores by July. This includes Whole Foods-operated businesses like Allegro coffee bars and juice bars.
While the fixation on plastic straws is understandable, outright bans have proven harder to enforce and tend to complicate things for disabled customers. But Whole Foods says it plans to have plastic straws on hand for customers with disabilities and Forest Stewardship Council-certified paper straws will be available upon request to anyone.
This is part of a larger initiative to cut back on plastic waste. Other steps include ensuring that rotisserie chickens will no longer be presented in hard plastic containers. Instead, they will be in bags that purportedly use 70% less plastic. The plastic bags used for bagging produce will also be smaller, which is good, because those bags are always so big and nobody can eat that many tomatoes in a week.
Whole Foods Market’s plan will approximately to cut back on 800,000 pounds of plastic per year. But using less might not be enough. Following the Whole Foods announcement, Greenpeace circulated a press release with words from Davig Pinsky, an oceans campaigner. Pinsky notes that “retailers must go much further than phasing out plastic straws and cutting down on the amount of plastic used in select companies.” He urges that, “Now more than ever, we need retailers like Whole Foods to embrace real innovation... moving towards systems of reuse and thinking beyond throwaway materials.”