Overpackaging at Publix (and other grocery stores) and What You Can Do

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Overpackaging at Publix and What You Can Do

This is some appalling overpackaging. Here’s why this sight bummed me out and how you can help make a difference.

I spent last week visiting family in Florida, and one afternoon Dave and I headed to the Publix near my in-laws’ house to pick up grilling goodies. Dave handled the meat for the omnivores while I headed to the veggie section for hobo dinner fixings. Things became frustrating very quickly.

We chose Publix because it was close, but also because they have a Greenwise line of organic produce. I thought that would make shopping a pleasure, but you can see from the photo above that they take the “green” part of Greenwise pretty lightly.

What you’re looking at is a wall of organic and local produce, all wrapped in plastic and Styrofoam. Even the green peppers and potatoes were individually wrapped! Planning supper became less about choosing what I wanted to eat and more about cobbling together a basket of veggies with the least amount of plastic.

Related: Giving Plastic Grocery Bags the Boot

We were planning to make asparagus and skipped it entirely, because it was in a Styrofoam tray. I swear to you that I thought Styrofoam trays went away in the 90s.

The Problem with Overpackaging

Don’t get me wrong. I appreciate that Publix is making any commitment at all to sourcing organic and local. But part of me feels like this amount of plastic packaging cancels out a lot of the benefits of their Greenwise program.

That plastic packaging never breaks down. It pollutes our waterways. It harms animals. And it leaches toxic chemicals into our food.

You may not be getting as many pesticide residues from your Styrofoam tray of asparagus, but the Styrofoam and plastic wrap leach carcinogens into those healthy veggies.

I initially tweeted out this photo the same day that we went shopping, and a lot of my friends on there were retweeting the photo. Publix’s Twitter account was quick to reply:

Whether Publix is really going to lighten their plastic packaging remains to be seen. If you want to encourage them to skip the plastic and truly commit to a green line of groceries, I hope you’ll send them a tweet or let their corporate office know how you feel. The more feedback they get, the better.

Beyond Publix: Avoiding Overpackaging

Of course, Publix isn’t the only grocery store that thinks plastic wrapped produce is a-OK. Trader Joe’s, Kroger, and Whole Foods are just as guilty. Of the bunch, I see far less plastic packaging at Whole Foods, but there’s still plenty of overpackaging in their produce section.

These stores aren’t part of some plastic conspiracy. This sort of overpackaging is just part of the grocery business. If we want to see a change, we need to let our grocers know that we want more loose produce and less plastic.

Below are the contact pages for some chain grocery stores. If you have a few minutes, contact them! We are the customers, and these companies won’t know what we want unless they tell them. Let them know that you want loose produce, not plastic packaging:

Your buying choices also matter! Shopping bulk bins when they’re available tells stores that we want to purchase food with less packaging. Choosing loose produce makes a difference. You can also get your veggies at a farmer’s market or from a CSA, where overpackaging is a lot less prevalent.

What is the packaging situation like at your local grocery store? Is what I experienced at Publix on the extreme side, or does it seem pretty standard?

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6 comments on “Overpackaging at Publix (and other grocery stores) and What You Can Do
  1. Pingback: Giving Plastic Produce Bags the Boot!

  2. Pingback: Zero Packaging Grocery Store List

  3. I am continually frustrated with the amount of food packaging ( well, actually packaging in general). Each summer, I take on a no plastic challenge, where I spend a month encouraging myself, and others, not to buy anything plastic. It is often quite disappointing to realize the things one has to do without in order to stay away from plastics, such as berries. Unless you shop at a Farmer’s market it can be really challenging to find those paper baskets of yesteryear.

    PS -I avoid TJ’s almost completely because so much of their produce is packaged.

  4. Becky, this is one thing that I wonder about when I shop. I don’t like to buy produce as much from TJ’s because of all the plastic… but when I buy in bulk I’m still putting it into a plastic bag anyway. Granted, I do reuse those bags for other things and I use fewer of them since I leave some things unbagged (read: wrapping a head of cabbage is crazy!), but it’s still there. What do you do if not use plastic bulk bags? I’ve seen some people putting produce into those net lingerie bags. Other options?

    • That’s a good one, and tough! There is an etsy seller that makes reusable bulk bags from ripstop nylon. Her shop is Kootsac. Our Whole Foods has switched to paper for bulk, which I love. For most veggies, I just leave them loose, but a Kootsac would work for those too!

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