Kroger will cut out use of disposable plastic grocery bags by 2025

Kroger, the nation’s largest grocer and parent company of Fry’s Food and Drug, will be phasing out single-use plastic bags in favor of reusable bags in all of its nearly 2,800 stores by 2025.

“This is part of our Zero Hunger | Zero Waste commitment to end hunger in the communities and eliminate waste across our company by 2025, which we announced September 2017,” said Pam Giannonatti, corporate affairs manager for Kroger’s Fry’s division.

“It’s a bold move that will better protect our planet for future generations,” said Rodney McMullen, Kroger’s chairman and CEO, in a press release.

What works for one person will not necessarily work for others, so the company is giving customers plenty of time to adapt and find new options, Giannonatti said.

“More and more customers tell us that using a bag once and throwing it away doesn’t make sense,” she said. “Overall, so far the feedback from our customers has been positive.”

Kroger uses 6 billion plastic grocery bags annually, while the industry overall discards an estimated 100 billion bags every year, Giannonatti said. That accounts for about one bag per person each day, according to the Earth Policy Institute. Laid end-to-end, 100 billion bags could circle the equator 1,330 times.

Arizona state law forbids municipal governments from imposing a tax or ban on bags and containers, leaving the decision to ban such packaging up to individual businesses. Kroger will ask for feedback from customers and “work with NGOs and community partners to ensure a responsible transition,” according to the press release. Kroger’s Zero Hunger | Zero Waste initiative includes a goal to divert 90 percent of company waste from landfills by 2020.

“The environmental consequences about single use plastic bags is well known and we firmly believe reusable bags are the best solution for our planet and future generations,” Giannonatti said. “We believe that this voluntary action to eliminate single-use bags is the appropriate act and we invite other businesses to join us in this effort.”

Kroger plans to follow the principle of “reduce, reuse and recycle” throughout the transition by improving employee training materials to emphasize using less bags. The company will continue to offer in-store recycling for plastic bags and other plastic films. Kroger collected almost 38 million pounds of plastic for recycling from in-store collection bins, Giannonatti said.

In a related development, Phoenix is now accepting bids to build a plastics recycling and remanufacturing plant to reduce landfill waste and turn trash into a resource.

“Having less (plastic bags) definitely would help the city’s recycling equipment, and of course the cost associated with that processing, of sorting out the unwanted items that shouldn’t go in the recycling container,” said Brenda Yanez, public information officer for Phoenix Public Works Department. “Plastic bags are recyclable; you just have to take them to your local grocery market.”

Currently, plastic bags are one of the most common items contaminating Phoenix recycling facilities, Yanez said. Sorting and processing facilities lose time and money when workers have to cut plastic bags and other soft plastics out of the machinery.

“When our company’s phaseout of single-use grocery bags is fully implemented, the waste generated by these bags at our family of stores will drop by 123 million pounds per year,” McMullen wrote in an editorial for USA Today. “To give a sense of just how big a number that is, that’s equal to the weight of the entire population of Detroit.”

Fry’s Food and Drug has been operating in Arizona for more than 50 years. A market leader in the state’s grocery industry, the grocery giant employs 22,000 Arizonans and operates 122 stores in “one of the most competitive markets in the United States,” Giannonatti said.

The core of Kroger’s Zero Hunger | Zero Waste plan is to donate 3 billion meals by 2025, achieve zero waste by 2020 and zero food waste by 2025 in all stores and across the company.


Graham Bosch

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