15-foot “plastic monster” erected outside Publix to shame the store for using plastic bags

Since the beginning of time, people have been scared of monsters. Now, activists are hoping a 15-foot-tall “trash monster” will scare people off of using plastic bags.

Greenpeace is traveling with its monster to Publix supermarkets all over Florida to highlight the store’s role in blocking action on single-use plastics. The popular grocery chain has declined to ban single-use plastics in its stores, and it’s part of the Florida Retail Federation, which supports legislation that would block local communities from banning items like plastic bags, Greenpeace said.

“Publix continues to demonstrate that it cares more about maintaining its ability to use cheap plastics than answering its customers’ calls for action on the pollution crisis,” said Greenpeace plastics campaigner David Pinsky in a press release. “It is not acceptable for any retailer to push undemocratic laws that prevent local communities from acting on plastics. Publix needs to get out of the way and get on the right side of history by ending its reliance on single-use plastics.”

Last week, activists gathered with the monster at the State Capitol in Tallahassee to push for action against single-use plastics. So-called preemption laws have prevented cities from enacting local plastic bans, and Greenpeace said Publix has contributed hundreds of thousands of dollars to the Florida Retail Federation to lobby in favor of preemption.

The Florida Retail Federation declined to comment to CBS News on Greenpeace’s actions.

Activists toured the state with the plastic monster this week, stopping in Tallahassee, Orlando, St. Petersburg, Gainesville and Lakeland to call attention to the company’s stance on plastics.

New federal legislation introduced in Congress Tuesday aims to make companies responsible for their own plastic waste, which is projected to increase in the next decade. The “Break Free From Plastic Pollution Act,” sponsored by Senator Tom Udall of New Mexico and Representative Alan Lowenthal of California, would phase out many single-use plastics and shift the financial burden of waste to to the industries that create it. Udall noted in a statement that plastics production is a major contributor to climate change as well as pollution of the land and water.

Publix said in a 2018 blog post that it was “intolerant of waste” and takes a number of steps to reduce it, including training clerks on proper bagging techniques and encouraging customers’ use of reusable bags. Every store also has recycling bins so customers can bring back plastic and paper bags, foam trays and egg cartons to be repurposed.

But in a recent Greenpeace report ranking U.S. grocery retailers on their plastic usage, Publix — the sixth-largest U.S. retailer by revenue — placed 15 out of 20. The activist group faulted Publix for focusing on recycling efforts rather than reducing or eliminating plastic waste.

“While recycling has some role to play, this strategy alone is failing and will not curb the tidal wave of plastics into our environment,” Greenpeace said in its report. “Publix has utterly failed to take responsibility for its massive role in the plastic pollution crisis, and concerned customers are taking note.”

CBS News reached out to Publix for comment but has not yet heard back.


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