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Curbing plastic waste to protect oceans

June 06, 2022 | Sustainability

A hand reaches down to pick up a plastic bottle on a beach where volunteers are picking up garbage.

From providing the oxygen we breathe and food we eat to regulating temperature and weather, the world’s oceans play a critical role in protecting human health.

That’s why for World Ocean Day there’s a 30x30 global movement to protect at least 30% of the world’s lands, waters and ocean by 2030.

CVS Health is doing its part to address the environmental and health impact of plastic waste as part of its sustainability efforts to reduce its environmental impact at least 50% by 20301.

“We recognize the health of the environment is inextricably linked to the health of all people and we are taking bold climate action to improve the health and well-being of the communities we serve,” says Sheryl Burke, Senior Vice President of Corporate Social Responsibility.

Approximately 300 million metric tons of plastic waste — equal to the weight of the entire human population — are produced every year2. Only 9% of that gets recycled and 11 million metric tons enters the oceans.

“A lot of people don’t realize that the ocean produces the majority of our oxygen, and it contains over 97% of the water on our planet,” says Edith Cecchini, Project Director, Corporate Strategy and Policy, Ocean Conservancy. “The ocean should be critical to sustainability efforts."

A turtle swims with a plastic bag around its neck.
CVS Health is testing ways to replace single-use plastic bags as part of its commitment to sustainability

Ocean Conservancy is helping CVS Health advance its sustainability goals, says Matt Thorsen, Director of Store Brands Packaging.

“By 2030, one goal is for all packaging for CVS Health store brand packaging to be 100% reusable, recyclable, compostable or able to be returned for proper disposal,” says Matt. “Another goal is to reduce the plastic use in CVS Health’s entire operation by 50% that year. These are monumental goals,” he adds.

CVS Health is also investing $5 million in the Beyond the Bag Initiative to eliminate the environmental harm of plastic shopping bags. The average retail plastic bag is only used for 12 minutes, but can last 500–1,000 years on Earth3. It’s estimated that the U.S. uses 100 billion plastic bags per year, and less than 10% are recycled4.

“We share many people’s concerns about the impact of single-use plastics on our environment and believe the retail bag needs reinventing,” says Sheryl. “Testing new solutions that can replace the single-use plastic retail bag builds on our deep commitment to creating a more sustainable world.”