Reducing Plastic Packaging at Menomonie Market Food Co-op
Since our co-op was founded in 1973, we have been known for not only alternative, healthier foods but also more sustainable packaging options. In the beginning, it was our buckets of flours, beans, and oats that lined the walls of our tiny store that stood out—many referred to us as “the bucket store.” People bringing in a pillowcase to fill with garbanzo beans was not unheard of.
As the world turned plastic and more natural foods that our customers demanded arrived in a more packaged state, we continued to innovate and look for ways to reduce the impact. Ours was the first retail location in Dunn county to accept film plastic bags and later #1 plastic, #5 plastic, and #1PETE for recycling. We have been a longtime partner of Dunn County Solid Waste in piloting various recycling programs over the years, some of which have developed into the norm while others have failed.
Throughout this time, we have also sought out innovative manufacturers who are leading the charge to change the packaging of common products. As you shop and look at the quality and price difference between two products, consider packaging as well; choose glass bottles over plastic, paper packaging over plastic, and no packaging over some packaging. Your purchasing decisions drive our purchasing decisions.
Currently, our new Sustainability Team has partnered with a few students at UW-Stout so they can focus on looking at the pros and cons of all plastics and select the least of these necessary evils. #1PETE vs. #1 vs. #2 vs. #5 vs. film vs. compostable is not easy math to consider. Plus, misinformation and supply issues add complexity. They should come to a conclusion about our best option in the coming months.
Plastic use in our store is far from perfect today, but then that’s the very sentiment that got us started in 1973 and will keep propelling us toward better answers. There has to be a better way to do things than the way we see things done, and we’ll continue to find them.