Rant: Stop The Plastic Madness!

Sure, those plastic packaging cushions have recycling symbols on them – just point me to a facility that accepts them 😕

Are you exasperated with the ubiquitousness of plastic, too? We’re inundated by it, and it’s an undeniable environmental problem…and yet, companies continue to needlessly wrap goods in plastic – sometimes multiple layers – until it feels like there’s no escape from excessive plastic use. I’m particularly appalled by a recent order I received from Vitacost, especially in light of what the shipping box said.

I’ve been a Vitacost customer for years, well before the company was acquired by Kroger Co. in 2014. It had focused on nutrition and wellness products, and, frankly, I didn’t foresee anything good coming of it being subsumed by Kroger, which I wouldn’t consider a health-focused retailer (shelf stable bacon and more soda than you can shake a stick at!).

Initially, though, I thought I might have been mistaken: shipping times improved, and it seemed like most of the Vitacost products were still available. I could also buy some of Kroger’s “Simple Truth” organic products at Vitacost (though you still had to read the labels carefully to ensure that you weren’t getting a Simple Truth-branded product that wasn’t organic).

But, I ultimately wasn’t mistaken. A favorite product, Dr. Walker’s Diet Shakes – delicious, low carb meal replacement shakes – were surreptitiously replaced by Vitacost-branded shakes, which compared very unfavorably in flavor, flavor choices, texture, and staying power. No announcement was made, but Dr. Walker’s shakes were just gone one day and replaced by similar-looking Vitacost shakes.

And Vitacost-now-owned-by-Kroger began sending out cheesy “brochures” that were actually marketing collaterals loaded with product ads and lame recipes. Junk mail.

The final straw was my last order, which contained several bags of different kinds of flour, muesli-making supplies, and boxes of tea. The shipping box proclaimed, in large letters, the company’s concern for the environment:

Except that the claim about the “protective paper” wasn’t accurate; in fact, there was no paper inside at all, except for the packing slip. Instead, scads of plastic! Air-filled plastic cushions and extra bags slipped over the flour bags. And, had the contents been packed into a properly-sized box, that extra padding wouldn’t have been necessary.

I immediately sent a message to Vitacost’s customer service about the claims they were making on their boxes not matching up with reality, and received a response that was perfunctory, superficial, and wholly unsatisfying…and I’m really not surprised.

It strikes me as pretty audacious for a company to publicly pat itself on the back for its environmentally-conscious practices, but so blatantly fail to deliver on its promises. And, Gina, you go right ahead and forward my feedback to your “fulfillment center leaders for further discussion and investigation“. Yeah, I’ll be here, waiting with bated breath. BTW, I completed that survey, too…and closed my account.

So why is this a big deal? National Geographic states that “the largest market for plastics today is for packaging materials. That trash now accounts for nearly half of all plastic waste generated globally; most of it never gets recycled or incinerated.”

Want to know more about how to reduce the plastic in your life? Check out A Beginner’s Guide To Plastic-Free Living.

Still not convinced? Read about the Great Pacific Garbage Patch and see what happens to that plastic waste – and reduced exports of plastic waste aren’t going to help resolve the plastic problem.

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