Whole Foods Market, a leader in green trends, is now
requiring suppliers to comply with its new "responsible packaging" guidelines,
which put a heavy reliance on use of post-consumer recycled (PCR) materials.
"As a leader in sustainability, we know that post-consumer
waste recycled materials are the way to go," says Jeremiah McElwee, senior
global Whole Body coordinator at Whole Foods Market. "They require less energy and water to produce, and they
generate far fewer greenhouse gases, while diverting reusable materials out of
the landfill and reducing reliance on virgin petrochemicals."
The guidelines also mandate that the company's more than
2,100 body care and supplement suppliers reduce the use of plastic in product
packaging, encourage the switch to glass when possible, and limit acceptable
packaging materials to those that are easily reused or recycled.
Whole Foods began work on the guidelines in 2008 with 25 of
its largest personal care product suppliers. Effective Sept. 1, Whole Foods
says all new body care and supplement suppliers must meet the packaging
guidelines before their products can be sold in the company's more than 300
locations across the U.S., Canada, and the UK.
In an attempt to jumpstart the change, the Texas-based
supermarket chain is switching all of its house-brand Whole Body products,
which now use amber-plastic PET No. 1 bottles, to PCR packaging by late this
year. The new bottles bear a leaf symbol indicating that they are made from 100
percent PCR plastic.
Whole Foods is not allowing use of plastics made from
renewable resources in its new packaging guidelines. A new report
from BCC Research indicates that bioplastics are rapidly
gaining traction for packaging applications for environmental reasons. Their
strongest pitch is reduction of materials' carbon footprint, but they can also
be composted in appropriate facilities.
"We have chosen not to support the use of polylactide (PLA)
plastics as they are generally made from genetically modified (GMO) corn," a
Whole Foods spokesperson told Design News
"It's unfortunate that PLA is presented as an environmentally sensitive or
sustainable alternative to plastic, as it uses conventionally grown GMO corn.
We would prefer that we be able to purchase PLA made directly from non-GMO or
Whole Foods allows PLA packaging in products sold in its
stores, but does not market them as a "green" or sustainable alternative to
plastic packaging materials.
"We have begun to test other alternative packaging
materials, including biodegradable containers made from bulrush (cattails),"
the spokesperson said. "Takeout containers in many of our stores are made from
this material, and we are actively looking for other alternatives to replace
packaging materials in our stores with greener materials."