Whole Foods Personal Care Packaging Now 100% Recycled Content

Whole Foods Personal Care Packaging Now 100% Recycled Content

Whole Body department - Courtesy Whole Foods Market

 Whole Foods Market is transitioning its Whole Body line of supplements to 100 percent recycled content bottles as its packaging guidelines for personal care suppliers go into effect.

The company gave its 2,100 body care and supplement suppliers a year, starting last Sept. 1, to make changes to their packaging in order to comply with the guidelines. Whole Foods (NASDAQ: WFMI) mandated that suppliers reduce the amount of plastic they use in packaging, switch to glass if possible, use only materials that can be easily recycled or reused, or increase the amount of post-consumer recycled (PCR) content.

"The most common change (so far) would be switching to or upping the percentage of PCR content in current packaging," said Jeremiah McElwee, senior Whole Body coordinator. "This includes both plastics in bottles as well as paperboard for boxes. Many suppliers have also switched the type of plastics they are using to more recyclable forms."

Last September, Whole Foods started converting its Whole Body brand supplements to PET plastic bottles (identified by resin code #1) made of 100 percent PCR content, and expects to have all supplements in the new packaging by the end of this year. Those bottles will be identified with a leaf symbol (right) to indicate they are made with recycled content. The company is also switching its 365 brand body care products to 50 percent PCR content HDPE plastic bottles (resin code #2).

McElwee estimated that the packaging for about 70 percent of Whole Body products has been switched.

Whole Foods began developing its packaging guidelines in mid-2008 by working with 25 of its biggest suppliers. All new products must meet the guidelines before Whole Foods will sell them, and all current suppliers are encouraged to convert packaging to meet the guidelines.

No products have been denied nor have any suppliers been dropped so far, McElwee said. "We have worked with vendors submitting new items to ensure they meet the guidelines before we will approve their launch in our stores," he said. "Our goal is to create win-win partnerships while also doing our best to move toward the end goal of zero waste. So our hope is that through collaboration and ongoing dialogue we will avoid dropping suppliers by working through any roadblocks to find solutions."

The company's packaging mandate is just one of many examples of businesses encouraging, prodding or forcing their suppliers to change their ways in order to improve the sustainability and environmental impact of their entire supply chains.

Walmart's Sustainability Index and other supplier programs have received some of the greatest attention due to the retailer's reach. Other supplier efforts have included Procter & Gamble creating a scorecard for measuring suppliers' impacts, Kaiser Permanente requiring suppliers to provide environmental information on healthcare products, Cisco asking suppliers to reduce packaging, AT&T telling suppliers to use recycled material and non-petroleum-based inks, and Delhaize America requiring seafood suppliers for its grocery stores to prove their products came from sustainable sources.

Whole Body department - Courtesy Whole Foods Market