Trader Joes Removes 6 Million Pounds of Plastic From Packaging

Earlier this month Trader Joe’s announced its progress towards its 2019 Sustainability Goals. The announcement below details their significant advancement on private brand packaging.

We removed nearly 6 million pounds of plastic from our private brand packaging – 6 times the amount we committed to at the beginning of 2019! 

A fundamental focus of sustainability is maintaining product integrity and preventing food waste.  We strive to balance the key role packaging plays with the realistic opportunities for recycling materials and what is the “best choice” for sustainability, which makes this work complex.  To help us navigate these complexities and identify packaging improvement opportunities, we created a five-point sustainability framework through which we have been conducting a product-by-product evaluation. The process continues, and as reflected in the following, we are making strides:

1. Reducing and removing packaging 

  • Eliminating or replacing packaging for 40+ produce items, resulting in the removal of over 2.5 million lbs. of plastic annually in the produce section. 
  • Eliminating plastic and foil pouches from our tea packages, and replacing them with compostable film. 
  • Removing excess packaging in our refrigerated section, dry goods and floral items by optimizing the packaging size and eliminating unnecessary material. 

2. Sourcing renewable and recycled packaging materials

  • Replacing the plastic sleeves on our greeting cards and the plastic flower bags with sleeves made of renewable, compostable material.   
  • Changing the packaging on over 20 SKU’s from virgin plastic to 100% Recycled PET, #1 plastic. This allows us to increase the closed-loop of plastic recycling and removes over 500,000 lbs. of virgin plastic from our stores annually.

3. Choosing packaging that can be realistically recycled 

  • Eliminating the plastic rings from our six-packs of beer, in order to remove over 100,000 lbs of plastic. 
  • Replacing all Styrofoam trays in our fresh meat section with PET1 trays that are highly recyclable. 
  • We replaced plastic produce bags and Styrofoam trays in our produce section with compostable alternatives. 

4.  Avoiding the use of harmful substances in packaging 

  • We identified for our vendors the substances that we want to eliminate and/or avoid in our packaging, including: Per- and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances (PFAS); Bisphenol A (BPA) & Bisphenol S (BPS); Nonylphenol Ethoxylates (NPEs); Polystyrene (PS); Styrene; Phthalates.  

5. Providing information to customers that increases understanding of how best to recycle or dispose of packaging 

As we enter 2020, our Packaging Improvement work expands, as we:

  • Continue our product-by-product evaluation to identify smart packaging improvements
  • Introduce compostable paperboard cutlery (made of ¼ the amount of material as their bioplastic counterparts) and cups for Demo (sample) stations in stores
  • Reduce the number of plastic bottles for sparkling water and introduce alternative packaging options for still water
  • Move out of plastic-based gift cards and into paper-based gift cards

As we proceed to advance the sustainability of our packaging, we remain committed to listening to our customers and finding innovative ways to address related challenges. We will continue to openly share information about our progress.  

Managing Store Resources

  • We recycled over 450 million pounds of materials (cardboard, plastic wrap, plastic buckets, and damaged pallets). We know that careful resource management leads to operational efficiencies and benefits our environment—truly a win-win. 

We are sincerely grateful to all of our partners for their help in making our goals a reality this past year.  We also are thankful for our customers, who sustain our business, every day. For you, we continue our daily work to be a better neighborhood grocery store. 

Previous articleDeadline Alert. Vertex Closes Friday
Next articleRussian Retailer Perekrestok Redesigns Green Line
Christopher Durham is the president of My Private Brand and the co-founder of The Vertex Awards. He is a strategist, author, consultant and retailer who built brands at Delhaize-owned Food Lion, and lead strategy and brand development for Lowe’s Home Improvement. He has consulted with retailers around the world on their private brand portfolios including: Family Dollar, Petco, Staples, Office Depot, Best Buy, Metro (Canada), TLW (Taiwan) and Hola (Taiwan). Durham has published five definitive books on private brands, including his first book, Fifty2: The My Private Brand Project. In 2017, he will debut his newest book, Vanguard: Vintage Originals, a visual tour of innovation and disruption in private brand going back to the mid-1800’s. Dynamic in his presentation while down to earth and frank in his opinions, he has presented at numerous conferences, including FUSE, The Dieline Conference, Packaging that Sells, Omnishopper and PLMA’a annual trade show in Chicago. Durham lives in Charlotte, NC with his wife, Laraine, and two daughters, Olivia and Sarah.