Why does the Co-op still sell products in plastic packaging and provide plastic bags?


Bill Genné, North Store Manager
Kyle Mays, Produce Manager, North Store

Sustainability is one of the Co-op’s core values and we are continually working to reduce our footprint on the environment.

Certain products, like berries and some greens, still come in plastic packaging from our suppliers and it is important to us to still provide access to these products for our customers. Very few of our local farms use plastic packaging and we are coordinating with multiple suppliers and vendors to encourage use of alternate packaging material instead of plastic, and hope in the future those options will increase and the use of plastic packaging will decrease.

We still provide plastic bags and containers for produce, bulk, and deli items to customers. We have actively looked for more sustainable options with some success, but the two main challenges that have prevented us from switching over include the fact that many of the compostable/alternative offerings contain GMO ingredients and that few of them are actually accepted in food/yard waste from Republic/Allied Waste services locally. Unfortunately, the source materials for the bags we’ve found are about 85% more expensive, which translates to about $28,000/year for our stores. We will continue to review and consider our options as advances are made in compostable bags technology.

Reducing and re-using are still much better options than recycling and we greatly appreciate our shoppers choosing options with minimal or no packaging and, where allowed by health department code, bringing their own bags, containers, and receptacles with them. We are very disappointed to no longer be able to accept plastic and glass containers from the community to sanitize and put out for customer reuse, as we did for many years. The Co-op is required to follow regulations outlined by the Oregon Department of Agriculture on this matter. Input from community members on a local and national level can also help make progress towards eliminating the use of plastic. If you are passionate about this topic, we encourage you to contact your local and state politicians and bring it up at community meetings. Ask your elected officials, “What are you doing to bring sustainable, renewable industry to Oregon to help combat waste and climate change?”