Carting Away The Ocean

Last month Kroger, one of the world’s largest supermarket chains, announced plans to phase out single-use plastic bags across its family of stores by 2025.  The news follows the release of Greenpeace’s Carting Away the Oceans report, which ranked supermarkets nationwide on sustainable seafood. The report primarily scored retailers on their sustainable seafood efforts, though in this edition it also looked at labor and human rights issues and efforts to phase out and eliminate single-use plastics from their operations, finding that none of the retailers had comprehensive plans to reduce their single-use plastic footprint.

In response to Kroger’s announcement, Greenpeace Oceans Campaigner David Pinsky said:

“Kroger’s decision to phase out single-use plastic bags is a testament to how consumers are demanding action on plastics from retailers nationwide. Kroger should build upon this effort by getting rid of additional types of single-use plastic. Plastic bags are important for retailers to eliminate, but so are plastic bottles, styrofoam trays, and plastic-wrapped fruit and vegetables.

The 10th edition of Greenpeace’s Carting Away the Oceans report highlighted both positive and negative trends in the sustainability efforts of supermarkets and the ecoliteracy of consumers. It revealed that grocery retailers across the United States have vastly improved on providing sustainable seafood, while still failing to take significant action on the growing problem of single-use plastics. Overall, 90 percent of the retailers profiled received passing scores, ten years after every single retailer failed the first assessment.

Whole Foods remains the top ranked retailer this year, following the implementation of a strong shelf-stable tuna policy and marked sourcing improvements. Target moved into the top four following improvements in policy and advocacy initiatives, though the company broke a 2010 commitment by re-introducing farmed salmon in its stores.

 Trader Joe’s ranking has dropped the furthest among retailers since Greenpeace’s last report. More than eight years after Trader Joe’s committed to improve on seafood sustainability, the retailer does not have a robust, public sustainable seafood procurement policy.

None of the retailers profiled have comprehensive policies to reduce and ultimately phase out their reliance on single-use plastics. The equivalent of a garbage truck of plastic enters our oceans every minute, and with plastic production set to double in the next 20 years—largely for packaging—the threats to ocean biodiversity and seafood supply chains are increasing. Greenpeace is urging retailers to take responsibility for their contribution to this pollution crisis.

“Supermarkets across the country have made significant progress on seafood sustainability in recent years,” said Greenpeace Oceans Campaigner David Pinsky. “It is time for major retailers to put the same energy into tackling the other issues facing our oceans and seafood workers, such as plastic pollution and labor and human rights abuses in seafood supply chains. It’s not truly sustainable seafood if it is produced by forced labor and then wrapped in throwaway plastic packaging.”