Kroger, the largest supermarket chain by revenue in the US, will say goodbye to plastic bags at checkout by 2025. The company will move from single-use to reusable bags, which will save 123 million pounds of garbage from being sent to landfills each year. This effort will quadruple the amount of plastic the chain currently recycles.
Kroger, which now sells reusable bags for $1, will make their availability more widespread, though shoppers will still have the option of requesting paper bags. The company is also hoping to reduce the plastic bags used for produce and meat. The new ban will affect the nine million customers that shop at Kroger each day. Kroger, which has 2,800 stores in 35 states, will first phase out plastic bags at its 63 stores in the Pacific Northwest by next year.
Aside from its eponymous stores, Kroger also operates hundreds of stores in the Midwest and the South, such as Harris Teeter, Ralphs, Fred Meyer, and Fry's, among others. The company's initiative comes as environmental concerns are voiced by shoppers, employees, local communities and nonprofit organizations.
"The plastic shopping bag’s days are numbered," Kroger CEO Rodney McMullen said. "Our customers have told us it makes no sense to have so much plastic only to be used once before being discarded – And they’re exactly right."
Kroger hopes their decision will inspire competitors to follow their example. "We're the first major retailer in the U.S. to do this," said Jessica Adelman, Kroger's vice president of corporate affairs, which oversees company environmental and sustainability efforts.
Kroger uses 6 billion of the 100 billion plastic bags the industry annually discards. It is estimated that only five percent of supermarket bags are recycled by consumers. In 2017, Kroger collected nearly 38 million pounds of plastic for recycling. In addition, the chain recycled 28 million pounds of plastic from other sources for a total of 66 million pounds.
In 2016, California banned plastic bags, which affected Kroger's Los Angeles-based subsidiary, Ralphs. The legislation prohibited plastic single-use bags but allowed heavier plastic bags designed for multiple uses that can be purchased for 10 cents.
Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles and San Francisco have also banned plastic bags, while the Texas Supreme Court invalidated bans in Austin other Texas municipalities. Boulder, Colorado; Brownsville, Texas; Montgomery County, Maryland; New York City; Portland, Maine; and Washington, D.C. all charge for plastic bags, yet Arizona, Florida, Idaho, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri and Wisconsin have passed laws that prevent local governments from enacting bans.
"Though the majority of bills propose a ban or fee on bags, or improve recycling programs, most enacted legislation in recent years deals with preemption of local government action," said the National Conference of State Legislators in May.