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Costco shopper sparks debate with photo of questionable product found on store shelves: 'How wasteful'

"If people would stop stealing they wouldn't have to do this!"

"If people would stop stealing they wouldn't have to do this!"

Photo Credit: iStock

Many consumers are waking up to the harmful impact that plastic waste has on our health and the environment, and one shopper didn't hesitate to call out Costco for its packaging methods on Reddit, ultimately sparking a debate in the comment section. 

What happened?

In the subreddit r/mildlyinfuriating, the shopper posted a photo of a serum from skincare brand Peter Thomas Roth. The product already came in its own packaging, but Costco apparently added even more, encasing the item in a large sheet of plastic

"If people would stop stealing they wouldn't have to do this!"
Photo Credit: Reddit

"How wasteful Costcos packaging is," the original poster wrote in the caption. 

Why is plastic packaging concerning? 

The world is producing more plastic than ever before, with approximately 441 million tons of the material going to waste each year. Sadly, more than 90% of it never gets recycled. Perhaps even more worrying is the fact that the bulk of it is made from dirty energy like gasoline, one of the primary contributors to an overheating planet. 

Trillions of plastic particles have also been released into our oceans as larger pieces of the material pollute the waters. That's not great for the health of sea creatures or humans, and it could result in a major economic hit. 

The U.N. Environment Programme notes that plastic leakage in the oceans could create a $100 billion financial risk for businesses annually by 2040, depending on government policies on waste management and recyclability. Meanwhile, "the monetary value of losses of marine natural capital is estimated to be as high as $2,500 billion per year." 

Why would Costco wrap a tiny product in so much plastic? 

Some commenters pointed out that small items are more easily stolen by shoplifters.

"I suspect that might be to prevent theft," one person said

"If people would stop stealing they wouldn't have to do this!" another wrote

In an interview with Business Insider, packaging consultant Michael Carrier also indicated that the plastic encasement was actually meant to cut down on waste from traditional retail packaging and lower prices for shoppers because of the standardized size. 

"Variability drives cost up," Carrier said

Costco has a list of sustainable packaging goals that aim to "optimize" the amount of recyclable materials in its packaging, and one commenter seemed to think that may be the case in this situation. 

"High theft item, but completely recyclable," they wrote.  

🗣️ Does seeing a product labeled with its carbon footprint make you more likely to buy it?

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🔘 Only if I understand the label 🏷️

🔘 Not at all 🚫

🗳️ Click your choice to see results and speak your mind

What can I do to cut down on plastic waste?

Some brands are making the switch to plastic-free packaging, but in the event that plastic packaging is unavoidable, How2Recycle is a great resource for U.S. and Canadian consumers who want to prevent the material from ending up in landfills.

There are also plenty of plastic-free alternatives to everyday products, including long-lasting metal razors, reusable sandwich bags, and shampoo and conditioner bars

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