- A Care2 petition calling on Kroger Co. to open a plastic-free aisle collected more than 115,000 signatures in a week. According to EcoWatch, the campaign was launched by consumers inspired by Dutch grocery store chain Ekoplaza, which opened the world’s first plastic-free aisle last month.
- The petition states the supermarket category is responsible for 40% of the plastic packaging we use. “Because of that huge number, they must start taking responsibility for plastic products they put on their shelves and which subsequently end up in our landfills, city streets and oceans,” it says.
- A 2015 study published in Science Magazine found that about 8 million metric tons of plastic waste enters the ocean every year. A report from the Ellen MacArthur Foundation predicts there will be more plastic than fish in the sea by 2050.
When it comes to plastic pollution, there are some ominous predictions coupled with viral images that illustrate how dire the situation is globally.
The question is whether or not Kroger, the largest supermarket chain in the U.S., can pull it off. Though Ekoplaza made it work, there are just 74 stores in that system. There are 2,778 Kroger stores, so the scale is much different. But Kroger’s size is exactly why the petition is targeted at the store in the first place. Rebecca Gerber, senior director for engagement at Care2, told Supermarket News that if Kroger made the change, many other chains would likely follow.
Huge strides have been made in alternative packaging, but not nearly enough to make a dent in plastic’s ubiquity. This movement will require much more than a large supermarket changing a single aisle systemwide. It will require a fundamental shift. Though consumers say they want change, the U.S. plastic bottle recycling rate is less than 30%. It will take a widespread adoption across the CPG space to adopt compostable or reusable packaging, similar to efforts from Pepsi and Evian. And it will take infrastructure updates to ensure there are enough facilities to support all of this recycling, according to Fast Company.
As an abundance of floating plastic takes over the oceans, adopting a plastic-free aisle would be a major PR win at the very least. At the very best, it would be an effort put forth by a company to assume a major role in curbing our plastic dependency and reducing our overall threat from polluted oceans before it’s too late.
Representatives from Kroger did not immediately respond to Food Dive's request for comment.