PhotoEnvironmental group Greenpeace has released a report ranking grocery retailers on their efforts to minimize single-use plastic on their shelves. The report finds the industry as a whole has a lot of room for improvement.

Single-use plastic, such as containers and water bottles, end up in landfills if they are not recycled. In many countries, the plastic -- along with other garbage -- is dumped at sea where it forms large islands and poses threats to marine life.

In a recent report, the United Nations estimated that 1 million plastic drinking bottles are purchased every minute and up to 5 trillion single-use plastic bags are used worldwide every year.

“In total, half of all plastic produced is designed to be used only once and then thrown away,” the U.N. said.

The Greenpeace report found that the supermarket industry is failing to address its contribution to the growing amount of plastic pollution. However, the researchers said some grocery chains are doing better than others.

Highs and lows

ALDI, Kroger, and Albertsons scored the highest in this year’s assessment, while Meijer, Wakefern, and H-E-B were at the bottom of the rankings.

“Grocery retailers across the country sell obscene amounts of products in throwaway plastics every single day, yet none of them are acting with the urgency needed to address the pollution crisis they’re causing,” said Greenpeace Plastics Campaigner David Pinsky. “Not only do these companies have the resources to reimagine their stores with refill and reuse systems, they can use their buying power to pressure consumer goods companies like Nestlé, Coca-Cola, and Unilever to act as well.”

Greenpeace singled out ALDI for recognition of its policies on plastic and its efforts to reduce its use. ALDI earned points because it has a plastic reduction target in place, a more comprehensive reduction plan than its competitors, greater transparency, and a commitment to implement refill and reuse systems.

Kroger ranked higher because Greenpeace said it is the only top-five retailer to commit to ban single-use plastic checkout bags. Albertsons won praise for committing to decrease plastic usage, but Greenpeace says it has not yet set an overall reduction target.

Rest of the best

Trader Joe’s and Sprouts round out the top five. Greenpeace says Trader Joe’s is eliminating unnecessary packaging from its stores. Spouts is engaging its suppliers to eliminate plastic where possible.

“It’s not enough for a retailer to eliminate plastic straws or make small changes to produce bags and walk away from this issue,” said Pinsky. “Retailers must develop comprehensive public policies to eliminate single-use plastics, and remain transparent with customers as they implement those plans.”

Greenpeace said it used a combination of publicly available information and survey responses to compute the retailers’ scores. While noting some progress it said none of the supermarkets scored above 35 out of 100 in its rankings.

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