Bioplastics Are Not the Solution

New Version Features Over 70 Additional Foodware and Food Packaging Products

Just six months after its initial release on August 19, 2021, a new and improved version of the Understanding Packaging (UP) Scorecard has been released. The new version features a strengthened methodology and improved user experience and features over 70 additional foodware and food packaging products.

The UP Scorecard is a revolutionary free online resource that can help concert and sports venues, restaurants, and other businesses choose plastic-free and sustainable packaging for food and drinks and is the result of an unprecedented cross-industry collaboration of leading foodservice companies, environmental NGOs, and technical experts.

What is the Up Scorecard & What is this New Version?

The UP Scorecard measures commonly used foodware and food packaging products with a single yardstick to offer companies the first-ever, free, and comprehensive tool for making sustainable purchasing decisions. 

With version 0.2, you can now score over 70 additional foodware and food packaging products including cups, plates, trays, bowls, ramekins, takeout containers, lids, utensils, and more. This update also features a strengthened methodology and improved user experience, so it’s as easy to use as possible.

Although still in a beta stage (v0.2), this new version has been significantly expanded and improved. A summary of the biggest new features and improvements made include:

  • More Use Cases and Products. Over 70 additional foodware and food packaging products were added into the tool and can now be assessed. These include cups, plates, trays, bowls, ramekins, takeout containers, lids, and utensils.
  • Customize and Compare Any Product. Users can now customize individual products, including their number of reuses, recycled content, transportation distance from the supplier, recycling and composting eligibility, sourcing certifications, and being free of chemicals of concern. These customized products are now displayed separately on the results page for easier comparison, and a preview of the updated scores is shown directly on the customization page when adjusting a product’s parameters.
  • Improved Tool Functionality. The presentation and navigation across various pages within the tool have been simplified.
  • Enhanced Transparency and User Information. Additional product details are now visible on the customize page for each product, including a short product description, the average product dimensions used for the impact calculations, and the number of underlying measurements used to define these.
  • Adjustments in the Chemicals of Concern (Coc) Metric: The calculation of the CoC score has been updated to add (instead of multiply) the two sub-scores involved. This means the CoC score now exists within a smaller range of 2 (worst) to 20 (best), which allows users to more significantly improve the score for a product if it can be declared as free of chemicals of concern.

For a more detailed overview of these and other new features and changes, see the UP Scorecard’s change log. Do you have questions about how the UP Scorecard works or how it could help you? Be sure to take a look at the new Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) page. An updated version of the methodology document has also been released that explains in detail all of the data sources and calculations used to calculate each score.

Acknowledgments

The Single-Use Materials Decelerator (SUM’D) team (of which Plastic Pollution Coalition is a part) would like to thank everyone who shared feedback with us on the first version of the UP Scorecard. Many of these suggestions have already been incorporated, and there are still others we are working to take on board in future versions. If you have any feedback to share on this new version, please do so using this online form.

We are excited to share this new version with you and hope you are looking forward to using it!

Photo by Danny Ocampo

Company Generated More Than 465 Million Pounds of Plastic Packaging Waste in 2019 According to Report by Oceana

Washington, DC – Oceana has today released a report – based on an analysis of e-commerce packaging data – that found Amazon generated 465 million pounds of plastic packaging waste last year. This is comprised of the air pillows, bubble wrap, and other plastic packaging items added to the approximately 7 billion Amazon packages delivered in 2019, according to news accounts.[1] The report found that Amazon’s estimated plastic packaging waste, in the form of air pillows alone, would circle the Earth more than 500 times.

“We have long known that plastic pollutes in every stage of its existence,” said Dianna Cohen, Co-Founder and CEO of Plastic Pollution Coalition. “Each stage of the plastic lifecycle from extraction to use and disposal poses significant risks to human health. This new report showing an explosive increase in Amazon’s plastic packaging is deeply concerning for the health of humans and the planet.”

The study also, by combining the e-commerce packaging data with findings from a recent study published in Science,[2] estimates that up to 22.44 million pounds of Amazon’s plastic packaging waste entered and polluted the world’s freshwater and marine ecosystems in 2019, the equivalent of dumping a delivery van payload of plastic into the oceans every 70 minutes.

“The amount of plastic waste generated by the company is staggering and growing at a frightening rate,” noted Oceana’s Senior Vice President, Matt Littlejohn. “Our study found that the plastic packaging and waste generated by Amazon’s packages is mostly destined, not for recycling, but for the landfill, the incinerator, or the environment including, unfortunately, our waterways and sea, where plastic can harm marine life. It’s time for Amazon to listen to its customers, who, according to recent surveys want plastic-free alternatives, and make real commitments to reduce its plastic footprint.”


Plastic is a major source of pollution and is devastating the world’s oceans. Recent studies estimated that 90% of all seabirds[3] and more than half of all sea turtles – 52%[4]  –  have ingested plastic. Sea turtles and other ocean animals mistake the kind of plastic used by Amazon as food, which can ultimately prove fatal. Eighty-eight percent of animals found to have swallowed or have been entangled in plastic, according to a recent Oceana study, were species listed as endangered or threatened with extinction under the Endangered Species Act.[5] Scientific reports have estimated that only 9% of all plastic ever produced has been recycled and 91% has ended up in landfills, incinerated, or in the environment, including the oceans.[6] The rapidly growing plastic pollution crisis needs to be solved by major plastic polluters like Amazon taking steps to reduce plastics, rather than making empty claims about recycling.

The report discloses that the type of plastic often used in packaging by Amazon, referred to as plastic film, is effectively not recycled, despite the company’s claims of recyclability. Most municipal curbside recycling programs in the United States, Canada, and the United Kingdom do not accept this kind of plastic. According to studies, only 4% of residential polyethylene plastic film in the United States was recycled as of 2014.[7]

The report also found that:

  • Amazon customers overwhelmingly want the company to reduce plastic packaging. Oceana surveyed more than 5,000 Amazon customers in the U.S., Canada, and the UK in 2020 and found that 86% were concerned about plastic pollution and its impact on the oceans; 92% were upset that plastic recycling does not work; and 87% wanted Amazon and other major online retailers to offer plastic-free packaging choices at checkout. More than 660,000 customers and others have signed a petition calling on the company to offer plastic-free choices at Change.org/Plastic Free Choice.
  • Unlike other companies seeking to move away from plastic, Amazon appears to be prioritizing the increased use of “flexible packaging” made of plastic. It has stated it uses flexible packaging to help protect the climate and environment,[8] but has not publicly disclosed the data underlying this claim or its plastic footprint.
  • Amazon has already shown it can rapidly reduce plastic packaging on a very large scale. After India passed a law to fight plastic pollution, Amazon eliminated plastic packaging from fulfillment centers in India[9] and has introduced a paper-based lightweight mailer that it reports has been used 100 million times.[10] Amazon has failed to apply these clear steps forward on a company-wide level to solve its plastic problem.
  • Amazon’s plastic waste and pollution footprint is expected to drastically increase, given analysts’ recent estimates that the company sales will increase by more than a third in 2020.[11]

The report calls on Amazon to reduce its plastic footprint and:

  • Listen to its customers: As an immediate measure, Amazon should give its customers what they want and offer plastic-free packaging as an option at checkout.
  • Be fully transparent and hold itself accountable for its plastic footprint and environmental impact as it already has for climate change: Amazon should report on its plastic footprint on a regular basis. This data should be independently verified.
  • Eliminate plastic packaging as it has already done in India. Amazon should also increase products shipped in reusable containers and adopt policies that can be demonstrated to reduce plastic pollution rather than making empty claims about “recyclability.”

To access the full Oceana report, please visit oceana.org/PlasticFreeAmazon. To find out about Oceana’s campaign to reduce plastics, go to oceana.org/plastics.

Organizations launch campaign after chain falls behind others on plastic waste

AUSTIN, Texas — Environment America Research & Policy Center, U.S. PIRG Education Fund and other nonprofits launched a national campaign today calling on Whole Foods to change its practices on plastic packaging. The groups’ decision comes after the supermarket chain received an “F” for its policies on single-use plastic packaging from As You Sow, an environmental shareholder advocacy nonprofit.

Along with Plastic Pollution Coalition, BRINGiT, and Student PIRG chapters from coast-to-coast, the organizations are specifically pressing Whole Foods to lead by eliminating single-use packaging from store shelves. The goal is to highlight the importance of this issue for consumers in all parts of the country. Some members of the coalition, along with Greenpeace, have already sent a letter to Whole Foods’ CEO John Mackey urging him to take action on tackling plastic waste.

“Plastic packaging is not on customers’ shopping list when they go to the market–and yet it’s almost impossible to walk away from a Whole Foods without a basket full of plastic that will pollute our planet for centuries,” said Kelsey Lamp, Protect Our Oceans campaign director for Environment America Research & Policy Center. “Our wildlife, oceans and communities are choking on plastics and deserve better. We must prioritize wildlife over waste, and we should expect more from a supermarket known for its environmental vision.”

According to As You Sow’s recent report that studied 50 companies, Whole Foods not only scored an “F” for its efforts to eliminate unnecessary plastic, but also performed worse than other large chains such as Walmart, Target and Kroger. The report showed that Whole Foods hasn’t adopted an overall goal to reduce company-wide packaging. It has also failed when it comes to packaging transparency. Notably, the company has not publicly reported anything on its plastic footprint, including tonnage and volume of packaging materials, units of plastic packaging, or percentage of sales that use reusable packaging.

Photo of over-packaged oranges at Whole Foods by World of Vegan.

“As a company with a reputation for selling food that is good for people and the planet, Whole Foods can make a big dent in reducing plastic pollution,” said Alex Truelove, Zero Waste campaign director for U.S. PIRG Education Fund. “Whole Foods Market once led the industry as the first U.S. grocer to eliminate plastic grocery bags at checkout in 2008. It’s time they lead again.”

Each year, another 8 million tons of plastic enters our oceans—the equivalent of a garbage truck dumping a load of plastic waste into the sea every single minute. This senseless waste is devastating for wildlife, since a bird or fish or turtle can so easily mistake small pieces of plastic for food. Nearly 700 species of marine animals, as well as more than 50 freshwater species, have ingested plastic or become entangled in it, often with deadly results.

“Young people expect the companies they support to reflect their values,” said Eckerd College junior and Florida PIRG Students State Chair Alex Gordon. “For too long Whole Foods has not taken responsibility for the single-use plastic pollution they’re creating and this is the moment to act.”

Washington, DC – Greenpeace USA released a report today highlighting various reuse and refill models around the globe that have continued or can be used during the COVID-19 pandemic by ensuring strong sanitization or contactless systems for containers. The report, Reusables Are Doable, assures restaurants, retailers, and consumer goods companies that a pandemic does not need to mean shifting toward widespread disposable plastic that threatens the environment and the health of communities worldwide. 

“Reusable systems are not only possible during a global pandemic, they are needed more than ever,” said Greenpeace USA Plastics Campaigner David Pinsky. “Communities of color on the frontlines of the plastic pollution crisis face increased risks from COVID-19, but the plastics industry continues to churn out dangerous throwaway products and claim they are safe. It is time for restaurants, retailers, and large brands to end their reliance on useless plastic packaging, bags, and containers once and for all.” 

Greenpeace’s report features a number of reusable systems globally that can instill confidence during the pandemic. Those systems include: 

  • Contactless coffee systems have been embraced by hundreds of cafes worldwide to minimize waste. With this system, a customer places their reusable container on the counter, backs away, and allows the barista to fill it with a separate cup that doesn’t touch the customer’s. 
  • Loop, which launched in 2019, offering well-known grocery brands to customers in reusable containers. The company collects used containers, sanitizes them according to FDA standards, and uses them for future products. Loop has reported a sales increase during COVID-19.
  • The Wally Shop, which recently expanded to nationwide operations, also offers grocery delivery with reusable containers.
  • To-go reusable models, such as CupClub, which enable customers to borrow a reusable cup, use it, then return it at a dropoff point to be cleaned. 
  • Takeout meal systems, such as Dispatch Goods, partner with local restaurants to provide meals in reusable containers that customers return for commercial cleaning.
  • Algramo, based in Chile, which uses vending machines and an electric vehicle delivery service that allows people to pay for only the amount of product they need in reusable containers. 

The report urges governments and businesses to move away from single-use plastics, as plastic production continues to fuel the climate crisis and harm low-income and Black and Brown communities already disproportionately suffering from COVID-19. Greenpeace notes that reusable systems can protect workers, customers, and our environment by meeting basic hygiene and distancing requirements. New and expanded reusable systems can also help to get people back to work after the pandemic in strong, union jobs that also protect our planet.

Early in the pandemic, the plastic industry and its surrogates worked to exploit fears around COVID-19 to demonize reusables and expand disposable plastics. Since then, 130 health experts have weighed in to detail how reusables can be used safely during a pandemic. There are no documented cases of COVID-19 from surface contact. 

Greenpeace does not endorse any of the companies or products mentioned in the report. The examples included are solely to illustrate the types of systems that can instill confidence. 

Read the Greenpeace USA report.

Join our global Coalition.