AUSTIN, Texas. (January 22, 2008) Whole Foods Market (NASDAQ: WFMI), the world's leading natural and organic foods supermarket, announced today it will end the use of disposable plastic grocery bags at the checkouts in all of its 270 stores in the U.S., Canada and the U.K. with the goal to be plastic bag-free by Earth Day, April 22, 2008.
“Central to Whole Foods Market's core values is caring for our communities and the environment, and this includes adopting wise environmental practices,” said A.C. Gallo, co-president and chief operating officer for Whole Foods Market. “More and more cities and countries are beginning to place serious restrictions on single-use plastic shopping bags since they don't break down in our landfills, can harm nature by clogging waterways and endangering wildlife, and litter our roadsides. Together with our shoppers, our gift to the planet this Earth Day will be reducing our environmental impact as we estimate we will keep 100 million new plastic grocery bags out of our environment between Earth Day and the end of this year alone.”
The first U.S. supermarket to commit to completely eliminating disposable plastic grocery bags to help protect the environment and conserve resources, Whole Foods Market has declared today “Bring Your Own Bag Day” and will give out over 50,000 reusable shopping bags to customers at the checkouts this morning to celebrate today's announcement. “We hope to inspire shoppers to prompt positive environmental change by adopting the reusable bag mindset,” added Gallo.
“Doing away with plastic grocery bags won't just help protect marine life, it's a key move in shifting us away from a 'consume-and-dispose' mentality,” says Lisa Mastny, editor of the Worldwatch Institute report Oceans in Peril. “Disposable plastic bags can linger in the environment for more than 1,000 years and are the major debris item found on the seabed, especially near the coast.”
“During our International Coastal Cleanup each year, our volunteers find hundreds of thousands of bags on beaches and in the ocean posing a threat to birds, turtles and other marine life. As people continue to learn more about the impact their lifestyle has on the environment, we find they are looking for personal solutions to global problems,” said Laura Capps, senior vice president of communications and outreach with Ocean Conservancy. “We applaud Whole Foods Market for encouraging their customers to bring re-usable bags when shopping and for making better stewardship of our environment a part of their everyday lives.”
Beginning immediately, each store in the Company will work on depleting stocks of disposable plastic grocery bags at the checkouts and will help raise awareness about the benefits of reusable bags. Over the next three months, stores will reduce plastic grocery bag inventories and increase selections of reusable bags for purchase.
Whole Foods Market has encouraged shoppers to bring their own bags for years by offering a refund of either five or ten cents at the checkouts, depending on the store. The Company also sells different types of reusable bags, ranging from canvas to its new large, stylish “A Better Bag” – a sound environmental choice since 80 percent of its content comes from recycled plastic bottles and it is an economical choice as well since it costs only 99 cents.
“Before Whole Foods Market decided to do away with this disposable plastic grocery bags at our checkouts, we ran tests in San Francisco, Toronto and Austin. Customers have overwhelmingly supported the plastic bag ban initiated by Whole Foods Market in these cities and applauded the progressive stance the stores have taken,” said Gallo. “The response has been incredibly positive, and our customers are thanking us for doing this. Additionally, our Team Members are excited and passionate about taking this initiative, and we're finding it's created a great forum for discussion and awareness at the checkout counters.”
Although the natural and organic grocer hopes to inspire shoppers to bring their own reusable bags, the Company will continue to offer an environmentally sensitive option when needed – 100 percent recycled paper grocery bags. Last year, Whole Foods Market became the first and only food retailer in North America to offer these recycled paper grocery bags made with 100 percent recycled fiber content, which also are completely recyclable.
Discontinuing disposable plastic grocery bags at the checkouts is another step in the Company's ongoing effort to provide more Earth-friendly bags and containers in its stores. Recently, Whole Foods Market stores began using all-natural fiber packaging at its salad and food bars. The fibers for the new containers come from plants that are cultivated or grow wild and are harvested annually. Additionally, the Company continues to seek alternatives to plastic bags in its bulk, produce, bakery and seafood departments.
“We realize there are many more steps to take, and we recognize it's an ongoing process to provide as much Earth-friendly packaging as possible,” said Gallo. “We will continue to evaluate each department within our stores as we seek to continually improve.”
More information can be found at online at www.wholefoodsmarket.com/byobag.