A trip to the grocery store creates a trail of packaging, much of which is plastic, that is mostly destined for a dump, sometimes a recycling center, and sadly, too often, the ocean.
Some supermarket chains are trying to do their part to reduce waste, with the latest being Giant Eagle, which has pledged to phase out single-use plastics by 2025. However, moves like these, while noble, don’t account for the waste produced by the packaged products on store shelves, from cans of beans, pints of ice cream or cartons of eggs. That latter one is getting some attention now from Pete and Gerry’s, the organic egg company.
The company announced in a press release yesterday that it has been trialing a reusable egg carton at co-op food stores in New Hampshire and Vermont. The cartons are made of recycled, durable, BPA-free plastic that can be washed at home and reused repeatedly, according to the release. Once a consumer buys the carton for $2.99, they can fill it up from the Pete and Gerry’s display of loose eggs, which are discounted from a standard dozen. More than 500 of the cartons have been sold, Fast Company reports.
Pete and Gerry’s said that an average American who eats 279 eggs per year would save more than 1,800 cartons from entering the recycling and waste stream by using the reusable carton. On a larger scale, if every one of the 327 million American did so, more than 594 billion cartons would be out of circulation. Pete and Gerry’s said that it’s looking to bring the program to more stores.
One aspect of a reusable anything is that customers must bring it with them whenever they go shopping. At their core, these items inconvenience the customer. And introducing them requires companies to be brave enough to add some friction between them and a transaction.
One company doing so is Blue Bottle Coffee, which announced last week that “by the end of 2020, all of our US cafes will be zero waste.” The company means it: it asks customers to bring their own reusable cups, or will charge them a deposit to use one of the cafe’s, and will sell whole bean coffee in bulk to customers with their own containers rather single-use bags.
Eventually, our standard should require the use of reusable containers. The tactic taken by many food companies is to switch to materials that are more easily recycled. Clearly, this won’t be good enough. Recycling has proven to be ineffective while the world continues to drown in plastic.
The future of food shopping should be a little more difficult for everyone, especially for those who can afford it, for the sake of the planet. “Zero-waste stores” are already attempting this, demanding that their customers bring their own containers. Larger grocery chains and consumer packaged goods companies need to step up and expand efforts such as the delivery service Loop, which utilizes reusable containers.
The planet has suffered because of our thirst for convenience. It’s time for more companies to step up and demand customers give up some of that convenience.