The Kroger Co. will start a plastic bag ban across all of its stores by 2025, beginning with Seattle-based QFC stores; those will transition away from single-use plastic bags is expected to be completed in 2019. The company says it will eventually move to reusable totes, which the company sells, though customers will have the option to use paper bags for now.
The grocery chain will solicit customer feedback and work with NGOs and community partners to “ensure a responsible transition,” the company says.
According to Kroger, less than 5% of plastic bags are recycled, and single-use plastic bags are the fifth-most common single-use plastic found in the environment by magnitude.
Kroger says that the move is partially in response to growing environmental concerns from shoppers, employees and communities, along with nonprofit groups. Kroger says it is the first major retailer in the US to do this. The decision may put pressure on other major retailers (Kroger is the second-largest grocer, behind Walmart) to enact similar bans.
Kroger’s Zero Hunger | Zero Waste initiatives include a goal of diverting 90% of waste from landfill by 2020.
Kroger has 2,779 retail food stores across the US.
Bans Spark Debate
The use of bags at checkouts is an environmental hot-button topic not only among consumers and retailers, but also at city and state level. Attempts to ban plastic bags in a number of states have been mostly unsuccessful. To date, California is the only state that has banned single-use plastic bags outright, though stores there are allowed to use heavier plastic bags – designed for multiple use – that customers can buy for 10 cents apiece.
A handful of cities have successfully enacted plastic bag bans, including Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Austin (TX), according to USA Today.
The US generates more than 4 million tons of plastic bags and wraps each year, and only about 13% of that plastic is recycled, according to the EPA.