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Plastic Use at the Co-op

We are in a long-term project to reduce plastics in our stores, kitchen, and administrative office. Here are improvements we’ve already made, by department:

  • PRODUCE

    • You can get bulk salad mix and mushrooms rather than have to get them in packaging, which is unique in the region.
    • Our produce bags are certified home compostable. They are made of a material called Mater-bi, which is a Italian bioplastic made up of “starches, cellulose, vegetable oils and their combinations."
    • We sell reusable bags for produce items.
    • We don’t pre-wrap anything that doesn’t come that way, with the exception of value-added products and discounted produce.
  • PREPARED FOODS

    • Recycled plastic clamshells in our Deli. (State regulations require us to provide free containers for bulk, prepared foods, and produce products.)
    • The Deli’s “Stronger Together”-branded packaging uses post-consumer and compostable lids.
    • Our cookie packaging is home-compostable and marine-safe.
    • Straws in the juice bar are marine-safe biodegradable.
    • Our cups are biodegradable/compostable.
    • We sell reusable bags for bulk products.
    • We have reusable plates and silverware for dining in.
    • Our plastic silverware is compostable.
  • BULK

    • We have a broader selection of bulk items than any other grocer in the area, including unique items such as local eggs, kombucha, cooking oils, and shampoo.
    • You can use paper for free or glass for purchase instead of plastic. (State regulations require us to provide free containers for bulk, prepared foods, and produce products.)
    • We have bulk water
  • GENERAL MERCHANDISE

    • We sell stands for drying and reusing plastic bags.
    • We sell a variety of reusable bag options for fresh produce.
  • OTHER

    • We stopped laminating Owner cards years ago.
    • We now print most signage on Revlar (waterproof, recyclable plastic paper) rather than laminating them.

Here are actions we are taking now:

  • Actively seeking alternatives to plastic in bulk and produce
  • We are reviewing our ability to provide better pricing for bulk produce that is also available in clamshells.
  • In April we are conducting a food waste and discarded materials audit to get a baseline on our efforts and identify areas for improvement, establish long term goals based on metrics.
  • We are investigating feasible alternatives to plastic-based discounted produce bags.
  • We are investigating alternatives to plastic containers for our grab-and-go prepared foods.

How you can help

  • Madison residents, encourage the mayor to include the funds in the city budget a local biodigester. We use many containers that are technically compostable, but require a specialized facility to break them down, as they won’t break down in home-style composters.
  • Purchase plastic free items in our stores, which will help us continue to offer them.
  • Use reusable bags for shopping, and reusable containers for produce, bulk and deli purchases.
  • Encourage your favorite brands who still use plastic in their packaging to find an alternative, and say that you will be willing to pay extra to support this change. Plastics are used because they’re inexpensive, so any company that uses other materials will likely have to charge more. Let the brands know you support the added costs.