Whole Foods and Plastic Bags – Redux

After my post about Whole Foods and the fact that they provide plastic bags as an option at checkout I sent this email to them (here is the contact page):

I’m wondering why you are offering plastic bags as an option at checkout? Given the environmental impact of plastic bags I would think that Whole Foods would remove them from stores as an option. Paper, while not ideal, certainly is a better option than plastics. If you are going to keep offering plastic bags then why aren’t you using the corn-based biodegradable bags instead? Thanks, Jason

A couple of days later I received a very nice reply from Rachael Gruver. Here is the reply in full:

Hello Jason,

Thank you for contacting Whole Foods Market with your concerns. At Whole Foods Market, caring for our communities and our environment is a core value and something we take very seriously. We offer reusable bags for sale in our stores and give at least a five cent bag refund for each bag our shoppers bring back and reuse for their groceries – whether the bag is from Whole Foods Market or not — to encourage our shoppers to bring back bags for reuse.

All of our regions require their front end team members to attend bag training. In our training we not only focus on bagging items securely, but also on bagging in the most environmentally friendly manner. Some examples of bagging tips addressed in training include, packing full bags, asking shoppers whether their household and body care items can be placed in the same bag as their food, asking before double bagging, etc.

We are also looking into sourcing biodegradable bags and bags made from higher post consumer recycled content. Biodegradable shopping bags are generally made from GMO corn. It’s unfortunate that these bags are presented as an environmentally sensitive or sustainable alternative to plastic, as they are generally made with non-organic, genetically engineered corn. In addition, many of the bags available at this time are not sturdy or cost effective. We are confident that with increased consumer awareness and demand, we will be able to purchase bags that are more environmentally friendly and that meet our standards for price and quality.

Thank you for your comments and your commitment to being green.

Best regards,

Rachael

Rachael Gruver | Global Customer Information Specialist | Whole Foods Market | 550 Bowie Street | Austin, Texas 78703

I suppose it comes down to three things:

  1. Cost
  2. Bag Strength
  3. use of non-organic and/or GM corn

I can see how issues one and two would need to be addressed. Point three I am just not sure where I stand. Not having done (and not able to do…at least at the moment) the full “cradle-to-grave” analysis of petroleum-based plastic bags vs. the newer corn-based bags I can’t really agree with their point yet I also can’t really disagree.

In the end however she didn’t answer my initial question which was: why are you offering plastic bags at all? Certainly the most environmentally-friendly option to them (as well as cost-effective) is to not even have plastic bags be available.

3 thoughts on “Whole Foods and Plastic Bags – Redux

  1. i’m actually a team member of a whole foods in the south region. i have been doing my research for just a couple days now on the paper vs. plastic conundrum.so far here are some links that provide some information on the subject. most i’ve found are in favor of plastics. i guess that when it really boils down to the harsh facts, it’s all a matter of personal preference. you either have to pollute the air to save some wildlife and possibly kill them with toxic wastes later or save our air but create lots of litter. like i said… conundrum.http://www.care2.com/greenliving/easy-greening-shopping-bags.htmlhttp://byotalk.blogspot.com/2006/07/whole-foods-plastic-vsplastic.htmlhttp://blog.oregonlive.com/pdxgreen/2007/09/which_is_best_paper_or_plastic.htmlhttp://www.sightline.org/daily_score/archive/2007/09/04/this-sort-of-thing-ain-t-my-bag-babynot totally green http://notmilk.com/http://www.wholefoodsmarket.com/stores/calendars/WYN.htmlceraplast-andrew

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  2. Andrew-Thanks for the comments and links. I’d still have to say the nod goes to paper given the choice.I actually ended up buying the recycled plastic bags offered at Whole Foods for $0.99 each. Those are great and they pay for themselves.

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