Grocery Stores Must Do Better: Plastic Has Taken Over!

It has become almost impossible to shop for groceries without bringing home unnecessary plastic packaging that can't be recycled or reused.

Environmental Defence surveyed 54 large, high-traffic grocery stores across Canada including Loblaws, Sobeys and Metro, and found that the majority of products on the shelves were packaged in plastic. Even the produce section has become a concerning source of single-use plastic waste that often ends up in landfills, incinerators or littered in nature.

Plastic packaging can contain harmful chemical additives, such as bisphenols and phthalates. It's also a major source of microplastic contamination.

It's time to stop the plastic pollution crisis.

Big grocery chains have to clean up their act on throwaway plastic packaging instead of leaving us holding the bag.

Urge big grocery chains to phase out unnecessary single-use plastics and to scale up their reusable and refillable packaging systems.


To: CEOs of Loblaws, Empire, Metro, Walmart, The J. Pattison Group and VP at Costco Canada

Subject: Act to eliminate harmful plastic packaging

It is time for you to step up to reduce the amount of throwaway plastic that is on the shelves in your stores. I am appalled by the amount of plastic packaging that comes home with me every time I shop for groceries. One of the most frustrating examples is all the wrap and containers for fruits and vegetables that don't need it. Right now, only 28 per cent of produce is available unwrapped. 

Beyond the fact that the vast majority of this plastic food packaging is not recycled, it also exposes us to toxic chemicals. Plastic packaging can contain chemical additives such as bisphenols and phthalates, and is also a source of microplastics contamination in food. Babies and small children are particularly vulnerable to these toxic exposures.

I call on you to embrace the federal government's proposed pollution prevention plan and act to eliminate throwaway plastic packaging from your stores. There is no doubt that your company contributes to the growing plastic pollution crisis.

In particular, I support targets to:

  • Eliminate unnecessary packaging in the produce aisles, ensuring that 95 per cent of the fruits and vegetables sold are packaging-free

  • Adopt convenient reusable packaging systems, including pre-filled containers that can be returned to the store for washing and refilling and aim to provide at least 30 per cent of your products in refillable containers by 2030

  • Eliminate the use of plastic for food marketed to babies and toddlers as soon as possible

  • Phase out the use of all flexible plastic packaging, including pouches, wrappers and films

  • Be transparent about chemical additives in the food packaging on your shelves

The best before date on plastic packaging is long past and there is no excuse for you to drag your feet on eliminating harmful, single-use plastics in your stores. Please act now.

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