Simplify Zero Waste


Trader Joe's Reduces Plastic Waste: Progress or BS?

Last year I wrote a post titled, Why I Don’t Shop at Trader Joe’s Anymore, outlining my qualms with this popular grocery chain. My biggest issue? Plastic of course! Recently, however, I found my peers all very excited to hear Trader Joe’s announce that they plan to reduce plastic waste in their stores. But is this just an empty claim, or a win for mother earth?


Let’s start with the cons first. Time and time again we have heard companies make big statements about reducing their environmental footprint, being better to their workers, increasing diversity in their workforce, yadda yadda yadda. Usually these announcements come with plenty of marketing, a big fanfare announcement, lots of media coverage and, often, big numbers describing the impact their work would have. Unfortunately, seldom do these announcements come with actions, or even action plans.

A fabulous example of this bull is Marriott’s announcement to reduce their environmental footprint in their properties by 15% (water) 30% carbon, 45% (waste) 50% (food waste) by 2025. All this seems to be so far is one big fluffy marketing ploy. These shiny numbers have not led to any actionable change that I can find, aside from a few photo ops from corporate volunteering events, nor have they released any information on how they plan to get to these numbers. They hope that simply by having the intention to be better we will choose them over their competitors.

They hope that simply by having the intention to be better we will choose them over their competitors.

What worries me with Trader Joe’s announcement is actually the lack of figures being used to achieve their goals - it all seems a bit arbitrary. For example, under “items we are working on now” they list “Reducing the number of items sold in plastic packages in our produce section, including apple, pear and potato bags.” Great idea, but reducing by how much? How many products do you aim to transform? How much plastic will this specific project reduce? If they release more tangible goals, I would have more faith in their ability to get real results. That doesn’t mean that I’ve lost all faith in TJ’s!


On their plastic reduction/packaging improvements announcement webpage, Trader Joe’s does list accomplishments to date, and current specific projects in progress to continue their efforts. This tells us that Trader Joe’s chose to work on tangible policy and product changes before releasing this information to the public, which is already far more than what other companies have done in the past.

Beyond their announcement, I’m optimistic because of their customer base. Trader Joe’s consumers tend to be younger and more progressive, which leads me to believe that environmental issues are more important to them. In the end, companies have to listen to their customers - which is why we have to speak up.


As consumers, the biggest way that we can vote is with our dollar. Refuse to buy products from Trader Joe’s (and beyond!) in plastic. Bring your own produce bags and containers when applicable. Speak up on social media and in-store to keep the fire lit under their bums. Most of all: don’t pay these companies for ruining our only home!


What do you think of Trader Joe’s announcement? Is it progress or BS? Let me know in the comments below!