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MOM's Knows Best: Plastic Has to Go

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MOM’s Organic Market is a retailer on a mission. It has rigorous nutrition standards for all of its products, including no high fructose corn syrup, preservatives or artificial flavors. In 2005, it became one of the first supermarkets in the country to eliminate plastic bags, and last year it did the same with imported bottled water.

And it has a president, Scott Nash, who says things like this:

“Societies are truly addicted to plastic, much in the way we are addicted to oil.”

moms.jpgThis level of dedication is rare in the retail industry, and it has brought MOM’s a great deal of success through die-hard customer loyalty. It’s also made the company one of the few that sets the curve for industry health and wellness.

It should come as no surprise, then, that MOM’s has a new mission — one that’s a pretty big leap, even by its own high standards:

Eliminate plastic from its stores.

Or at least comes as close as possible. As Nash’s quote conveys, MOM’s doesn’t feel it’s being a truly sustainable retailer by letting all those bags and containers make their way into garbage dumps and ocean gyres. The company already has an extensive recycling program, shows a preference for biodegradable packaging and pressures its manufacturers to use less plastic. This week, MOM’s announced it will go even further, eliminating all bottled water, bagged vegetables, and petroleum-based wax paper from shelves. It’ll offer biodegradable bags and paper instead, and allow customers to use their own bags for bulk purchases. To fill that need for healthy, portable hydration, MOM’s will have water filtration machines in stores.

This is no small undertaking in an industry saturated with plastic. Take a walk down your grocer’s aisles sometime and try to think about how many pounds there are in an aisle, in a store, in the entire chain. Daunting, for sure, but here’s the thing — consumer sentiment seems to be angling towards its demise, especially as biodegradable options become more practical and cost-effective. We now see Sun Chips in compostable bags, water in plant-based cartons, and produce bags made from biodegradable corn fibers.

Retailers have happily followed consumers as they’ve made personal and environmental health a priority. The evolution there has been one towards increasing transparency and reduced impact. So with all that in mind, is it really a surprise that the focus would shift towards the wrappers, bags, bottles and containers that hold these items? MOM’s certainly doesn’t think so, and if the past is any proof, the rest of the industry will soon follow its lead.

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