As companies including Dell and Ikea have begun phasing out polystyrene foam packaging, a shareholder activist group has called on four other major US companies — Amazon, McDonald’s, Target and Walmart – to make plans to phase out the foam.
Last month dozens of leading global brands endorsed a plan to ensure 70 percent of plastic packaging is reused and recycled globally, up from today’s recycling rate of 14 percent. They include Coca-Cola, Danone, Dow Chemical, L’Oreal, Marks & Spencer, Mars, PepsiCo, Procter & Gamble and Unilever.
The plan to achieve a 70 percent plastic packaging recycling rate is laid out in a new report, The New Plastics Economy: Catalysing action, by the World Economic Forum and the Ellen MacArthur Foundation. The report recommends companies “actively explore” replacing polystyrene (PS), expanded polystyrene (EPS), and polyvinyl chloride (PVC) as packaging materials.
This year, As You Sow filed a shareholder proposal with McDonald’s, which phased out foam beverage cups in the US but continues to use it in foreign markets. Dunkin’ Brands has committed to phasing out foam cups, but has not yet done so, the nonprofit says.
It also filed similar resolutions with Amazon and Target and says it is in dialogue with Walmart, which uses polystyrene foam as packing material in its e-commerce operations. The proposals urge the companies to assess the environmental impacts of continued use and to develop a timeline for phase-out.
“We are aware of the campaign and are in the process of evaluating, but don’t have additional details to share at this time,” Target spokesperson Angie Thompson said in an email.
The other three companies did not respond to requests for comment.
More than 100 US cities or counties have already banned or restricted foam packaging and Ikea and Dell are among the companies to be phasing out foam packaging in their e-commerce operations.
Ikea, however, has drawn sharp criticism from the plastics industry for phasing out foam and replacing it with fiber-based packaging. Ikea said it had replaced all EPS foam in its packaging “with recyclable and more sustainable alternatives.”
In a joint statement the US-based EPS Industry Alliance and the Belgium-based European Manufacturers of EPS accused Ikea of greenwashing and said the retail giant “merely relied on the public perception that paper is uniformly a superior environmental choice.”