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Whole Foods is struggling to make a passing grade when it comes to food waste.
At least that’s according to a new report from the Center for Biological Diversity, which rated 10 grocery chains on their efforts to reduce food waste. Whole Foods earned a D, along with Target, Trader Joe’s, Costco and Publix.
Walmart topped the list with a B, thanks to its work to standardize expiration labels into two categories: “Best if Used By” for nonperishable products, and “Use By” for food that can spoil. In an interview with NPR, Jordan Figueiredo, who runs the Center for Biological Diversity’s “Ugly” Fruit and Veg Campaign, said that Walmart has also made small changes that are adding up, such as replacing a single broken egg without having to throw away the entire carton.
Figueiredo also said of the chains such as Whole Foods that scored lower that “it’s not necessarily that they’re not trying to reduce food waste, it’s that they’re not reporting what they’re doing. But if they’re not reporting that data, then we have no idea how effective these programs are. And something that’s just done here or there isn’t really meaningful.”
The companies were graded “based on their efforts to address the problem, from tracking and publicly reporting data to initiatives such as selling ‘ugly’ produce,” and Whole Foods seemed to take the biggest hit from not publicly reporting data about how much food ends up in the trash.
Whole Foods has more zero-waste certified stores than any other certified company, but “the company lacks any clear commitment to food-waste reduction and provides no data on the amount of food wasted, recovered or recycled.”
“If Whole Foods is serious about sustainability, it needs to be honest about the amount of food it wastes,” said Jennifer Molidor, senior food campaigner at the Center. “Until the company gets transparent and makes measurable commitments, its efforts are merely lip service.”
Although the company has food donation and recycling programs as well as initiatives in some stores to repurpose “ugly” produce, the report recommended that Whole Foods “institute food-waste reduction practices in its supply chain and across all stores to prevent excess, wasteful production before it happens.”
- Nine out of America’s 10 largest grocery companies fail to publicly report their total volume of food waste. Ahold Delhaize was the only company that publicly reported its total food-waste volume.
- The four companies that earned a C grade or higher overall were the only ones with specific food-waste reduction commitments. Kroger leads the way with a commitment of zero food waste by 2025.
- Four of the 10 companies have no “imperfect-produce initiatives,” which can prevent the waste of fruits and vegetables considered too “imperfect” for retail sale.
- Walmart was the only company with a variety of clear in-store efforts to reduce food waste, such as improving store fixtures, standardizing date labels, and educating associates and shoppers.
- All 10 of the companies have food-donation programs, with the majority operating company-wide. ALDI was the only company that did not report a food-recycling program (e.g., composting or a program to reuse unsold food as animal feed or for other industrial uses).