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Whole Foods Endorses PCR Packages

Whole Foods Endorses PCR Packages

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.

Whole Foods switching to PCR packaging
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 organic corn."

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."
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