AUSTIN, Texas (December 19, 2007). Whole Foods Market announced today — in the midst of the busy holiday shopping season — that it will no longer offer plastic grocery bags at the checkouts in its two stores in Austin, Texas, where the world’s leading natural and organic foods supermarket is headquartered.
“Let’s face it, plastic bags fill landfills, harm our water systems and wildlife, and litter our roadsides and communities. We are discontinuing the use of these bags in support of our Core Value of ‘caring for our Communities and our Environment,’ which includes adopting wise environmental practices.” said Seth Stutzman, Whole Foods Market’s Southwest regional vice president. “By partnering with our shoppers, we can together bring the plastic bag issue to the forefront in Austin to help protect the environment in our hometown and our planet at large.”
Eliminating plastic grocery bags at its Austin checkout counters will be a test for the Company and will serves as the first step to ban such bags companywide by early next year. Paper bags made exclusively for Whole Foods Market from 100 percent recycled content will continue to be an option for shoppers.
“Day by day, bag by bag, we can really make a difference by choosing alternatives to plastic at retail checkout counters. As the first major grocer in the area to take such an aggressive stand to protect the environment, I applaud our homegrown Austin grocer, Whole Foods Market, for leading this charge of awareness and I challenge other Austin retailers to look for alternatives to plastic bags at the checkout counter,” said Austin City Council Member Lee Leffingwell. Along with Mayor Will Wynn and Council Member Mike Martinez, Leffingwell sponsored a resolution earlier this year that would limit or ban the use of plastic bags in Austin stores.
To further bolster the reusable bag program the Company has had in place for years, Whole Foods Market is now selling “A Better Bag,” a stylish reusable bag with a colorful and whimsical design made from 80 percent post-consumer recycled plastic bottles. It sells for only 99 cents at checkout areas in all Whole Foods Market stores nationwide.
The Company also announced its two Austin stores will increase the refund from five cents to ten cents per bag to shoppers who bring their own bags to use at the checkouts. Shoppers can opt to donate their ten-cent-per-bag refunds directly to Keep Austin Beautiful, a local nonprofit organization dedicated to environmental stewardship. Additionally, Whole Foods Market will match donations from bag refunds and all money collected will go to helping fund Keep Austin Beautiful’s city awareness campaign about reducing plastic bag use in the Austin community.
“With the increased rebate to shoppers for bringing in their own bag, Whole Foods is motivating their customers and providing simple solutions for them to make positive environmental choices, said Brian Block, Executive Director of Keep Austin Beautiful. The easy, automatic donation at the checkouts will not only encourage Whole Food’s customers to bring their own bags, but it will also make a difference citywide since the funds will go towards our campaign to raise awareness about reusable bags and plastic bag recycling.”
Americans throw away about 100 billion plastic bags annually, according to the Worldwatch Institute, and only 0.6 percent of them are recycled. Austin generates more than 1,000 tons of plastic bag waste per year, according to Council Member Leffingwell. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) says plastic bags not only endanger wildlife by polluting land and water but also pose an environmental threat, as it takes more than 1,000 years for a plastic bag to break down in a landfill. Each bag shoppers bring in to use at the checkout has the potential to eliminate an average of 1,000 plastic bags over its lifetime.
To highlight these statistics, each of the two Austin Whole Foods Market locations today is giving away the new “A Better Bag” reusable bags to their first 1,000 shoppers. Customers who take advantage of the giveaway may also be the lucky winners of Whole Foods Market gift cards ranging from $10 to $100, which will be randomly inserted into dozens of the bags that will be given away.
Eliminating plastic bags at the Austin checkouts is just one example of how Whole Foods Market is strengthening its commitment to the environment. All of the stores, facilities and offices in the Company’s Southwest region participate in a composting program where all organic matter, including food waste, vegetable scraps and compostable paper goods, is regenerated into compost. In the Company’s prepared foods departments and at the food and salad bars nationwide, the stores use containers that are made from bagasse, a biodegradable byproduct of sugarcane production. The downtown Austin location is a LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certified store. On the national level, Whole Foods Market has won the prestigious EPA Green Power award the past four years in a row for its renewable energy credit purchases.
Plastic Grocery Bag Facts
- When they are discarded, often after one use, plastic bags fill landfills, clog our sewers, pollute our rivers and lakes, threaten our wildlife, and litter our roadsides and communities.
- Each bag shoppers bring in to use has the potential to eliminate an average of 1,000 plastic bags over its lifetime.
- Americans throw away about 100 billion plastic bags annually, and only 0.6 percent of them are recycled.
- Plastic bags not only endanger wildlife by polluting land and water but also pose an environmental threat, as it takes more than 1,000 years for a plastic bag to break down in a landfill.
- Countries that have introduced bans or taxes on non-biodegradable, petroleum-based plastic bags include Ireland, Italy, Australia and South Africa.