Major supermarkets chains in the US including Walmart and Whole Foods continue to use hydrofluorocarbons, gaseous compounds used in refrigerants and a major source of greenhouse gas emissions more powerful than carbon dioxide, according to a survey by the Environmental Investigation Agency.
The report, The Dirty Dozen: How your local supermarket is killing the climate, finds that AholdUSA, Costco, Delhaize, HEB, Kroger, Meijer, Publix, Safeway, Supervalu, Target, Walmart and Whole Foods have not taken substantial action to begin phasing out HFCs or reduce the amount of HFC emissions leaking from refrigeration systems.
The US- and London-based nonprofit surveyed 11 of the largest supermarket chain, which make up more than 35 percent of stores in the industry, as well as Whole Foods because of its focus on environmental sustainability. It graded stores based on nine categories under four main themes: HFC use and policy, partnerships and pledges, maintenance and energy efficiency.
The leakage from all US supermarket refrigeration systems is more than the emissions from the annual electricity use of nearly 8 million households, EIA says.
Not a single store received a passing grade. Only Delhaize, which owns the Hannaford, Sweetbay, Bottom Dollar and Food Lion brands, earned more than 50 percent of the available points in the survey. Whole Foods, which has a stated commitment to sustainability, only received 38 percent of available points.
Some US supermarket chains have installed HFC-free systems in stores. Whole Foods, HEB and Delhaize America are installing natural refrigerant systems into some new stores. SuperValu retrofitted a store with an ammonia/CO2 cascade system and Walmart has installed 35 of these ammonia systems at its distribution centers and manufacturing plants.
In August, Delhaize America opened a grocery store that will use carbon dioxide as a refrigerant rather than HFCs — the first such supermarket in the US.
However, these stores don’t represent a trend toward increasing the use of HFC-free systems, representing only one-tenth of 1 percent of all stores from the 12 companies surveyed by EIA.
The EIA says US retailers should publicly commit to eliminate the use of HFCs in all new stores and produce a plan with a clear time frame to retrofit existing stores with HFC-free technologies. The EIA also recommends that supermarkets establish maintenance programs to to reduce leakage in supermarkets, install doors and refrigerators and freezer and adopt other energy savings measures.