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Costco and Walmart Are Failing at Making This Important Change

Both scored below a 21/100 in this new ranking.

Costco and Walmart are ranked 6th and 7th on Greenpeace's best-to-worst list of the 2021 Supermarket Plastics Ranking. Costco scored 20.53 out of 100 and Walmart scored 18.10.

To rank each grocery chain, Greenpeace looked at each major grocery store chain's policies, initiatives, reductions, and transparency in reducing plastic use. It also notes if a retailer declined to participate in the survey process. (Related: Grocery Shortages To Expect in 2021, According to Experts.)

Costco moved up three spots compared to last year, as it continues its commitment to reducing its plastic packaging in the next 10 years. The score breakdown applauds the wholesale retailer's sustainability website and promise to switch out plastics that are used in its food courts to compostable material. However, the company did not participate in the survey. Greenpeace also says Costco's strategy isn't bold enough, and that Costco does not reveal any information about its actual plastic footprint (Greenpeace says the company may be sending trash to "waste-to-energy" facilities that burn it, creating toxic fumes).

Walmart dropped one spot compared to its ranking last year. Greenpeace actually even sued the company in 2020 for "illegally and incorrectly advertis[ing] its own brand throwaway plastics and packaging as recyclable." The giant retailer has made a promise to use compostable packaging for its own brands by 2025, but Greenpeace says the promise doesn't specify how much packaging will actually be reusable. However, Greenpeace's latest report does give Walmart credit for sharing some of its plastic footprint information publically, but says, like Costco, it isn't a complete assessment.

Grocery store chain Giant Eagle took the top spot on Greenpeace's ranking this year, with just a 34.88 score. Aldi was next, followed by Sprouts, Kroger, and Albertsons. Publix and Hy-Vee were 15th and 16. Beloved Texas grocery chain H-E-B came in last place with a score of just 1.55 out of 100 due to its lack of plastic-reducing policies and not participating in the survey.

Overall, Greenpeace says the results show much more work needs to be done, as grocers "must immediately remove unnecessary throwaway packaging, commit to eliminate single-use plastics, and transition to reuse, refill, and package-free alternatives. Simply swapping single-use plastics for another throwaway material doesn't cut it and will continue to pollute our communities and planet."

It also notes that grocery store chains "need to correct misleading labels claiming packaging is recyclable when it is far more likely to end up in a landfill or incinerator." Why is this important? Well, for one thing (beyond saving the planet), three-quarters of everyday plastic products are toxic, one study says.

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Amanda McDonald
Amanda has a master's degree in journalism from Northwestern University and a bachelor's degree in digital journalism from Loyola University Chicago. Read more about Amanda