It’s no secret that single-use plastics have become a concern worldwide. In fact, if nothing changes, by 2050, there will be more plastic in the ocean than fish.

One of the largest contributors to single-use plastic waste in the world is the grocery industry, and it’s clear that consumers have begun to take notice. Bans on plastic bags are becoming more common across the United States and the outcry caused when peeled oranges were individually packaged in plastic was enough to become a trending news story.

Luckily for us and the environment, many grocers have begun to embrace a sustainable mindset in their stores. Since 2008, Whole Foods Market replaced all single-use plastic bags in their stores with reusable grocery bags and post-consumer recycled paper bags. This year, Trader Joe’s plans to eliminate more than 1 million pounds of plastic from their stores. These improvements are encouraging, but if sustainability is a race, these are only the first steps for the grocery industry.

While many grocery retailers have been quick to develop a sustainability plan, rarely do these plans go beyond eliminating obvious producers of plastic waste. Unfortunately, these waste management strategies often leave out forgotten single-use plastics that are even worse waste producers for the environment.

Of these overlooked plastics, there are three types that consumers are likely to interact with each time they head to their local grocery store. They may not be the focal point of a renewable campaign like single-use plastic bags, but working to replace them will be the grocery industry’s next step toward a sustainable future.

PVC Gift Cards

Each year, the United States prints more than 1.6 billion PVC gift cards to fill wallets and checkout displays. To add some context, just the act of creating these cards releases more than 33,260 tons of CO2 into the environment. That’s equivalent to the average yearly CO2 output of 10,000 cars.

What allows these small cards to have such a large environmental impact is that the recycling process is difficult and costly, which forces most recycling facilities to send the PVC cards they receive to their nearest landfill. That’s more than 9,000 tons of PVC each year.

Channel Strips

Channel strips are the small strips that line the front of retail shelves, displaying prices and product information to customers. They’re so unobtrusive, many customers likely couldn’t recognize them by name alone, but despite their tiny size, channel strips create a significant amount of plastic waste.

Channel strips are most often made by combining polystyrene or rigid vinyl with an adhesive and a lining. The three-aspect system can create a lot of waste products for grocery retailers considering how often products on shelves are moved, prices are changed, or sales occur. Each time one of these changes takes place, a new channel strip is needed.

Point-of-Purchase Displays (P-O-P) and In-Store Signage

Grocery retailers use plastic signage and displays throughout their stores. Use your local grocery store as an example. Plastic signs display the latest deals on the windows as you walk inside. At the registers, there are several plastic and acrylic displays. As you walk through the sections, you’re guided forward by plastic signs, big and small, from the produce section to the freezer aisle.

It’s difficult to turn a blind eye knowing that 91% of plastic waste is not recycled and it’s overwhelming our environment.

Waste Stream

Paper is one of the most recycled commodities in the world. Durable alternatives available today make switching over from plastic, vinyl, and polystyrene to paper easy…and the right thing to do. Simplifying the waste stream at the retailer will eliminate the proliferation of plastics, save time, resources, and money.

The Next Step Toward Sustainability: ENVI Products

The situation is dire. Every minute, a garbage truck worth of plastic ends up in the ocean and 16,000 more plastic bottles are produced. There is so much to be done about pollution and plastic waste in the grocery industry.

With this goal in mind, Monadnock Paper Mills created the ENVIPortfolio of products for grocery to lessen a store’s environmental footprint. The renewable ENVI Paper Gift Card, Channel Strip, and Point-of-Purchase (P-O-P) Signage were conceived with the needs of the industry in mind. The goal is to give grocery retailers high-performance alternatives to the vinyl, plastic, polystyrene, and PVC products that have been historically difficult and costly to recycle.

Each ENVI product is sustainably manufactured from renewable wood fibers or recycled materials. These products will give the grocery industry an option to eliminate their use plastics and adhesive products that are not traditionally recyclable. Monadnock’s ENVI grocery products will help close the loop, allowing grocery retailers to build sustainable processes that will shrink companies’ environmental impacts and help them take the next step toward sustainability.  

If your customer checks out at one of your stores and chooses paper over plastic, then why shouldn’t your company also make that choice?

About the Author: Lisa Hardin Berghaus is Director of Marketing Communications for Monadnock Paper Mills Inc. and has a long history of working in the paper and forest products industry. She has a passion for moving the sustainability conversation forward. Berghaus can be reached at [email protected].