Kroger to eliminate plastic bags

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By Heather Lusk

What’s happening: Kroger is phasing out single use plastic bags at its stores, encouraging customers to bring reusable bags. The elimination is part of Kroger’s “Zero Hunger/Zero Waste” initiative, which aims to divert 90 percent of waste from landfills by 2020, converting it instead to animal feed, compost or biogas. The program is already under way in Kroger-owned Quality Food Center stores in Seattle, where plastic has been banned since 2017.

What it means: Kroger’s goal is to eliminate all plastic bags by 2025 at its nearly 2,800 stores. For each reusable bag purchased, a donation will be made to a local food bank.

Kroger is not alone in the environmentally conscious shift. Starbucks and Marriott recently announced the elimination of single-use straws. IKEA, which has banned single-use bags for a decade, is eliminating single-use plastic items by 2020. Across the U.S., an estimated 100 billion such bags are thrown away annually with less than 5 percent being recycled. Kroger orders approximately 6 billion bags per year for stores in 35 states.

Eric Halvorson, manager of corporate affairs for the Central Division, said Kroger is making headway toward its goal of waste diversion. A Greensburg food production facility owned by Kroger converts the gas from food waste into energy to power the plant, diverting more than 90 percent from landfills. Last year, all Kroger divisions combined to divert 77 percent of its waste from landfills.

What’s next: Although there is no deadline for the elimination of plastic at Indiana stores, plastic bags will no longer be an option at Kroger QFC locations in 2019. The roll-out in other West Coast stores will “provide good lessons for how and when the rest of us will adapt to the change,” Halvorson said. Many West Coast Kroger stores provide paper bags free of charge but it is unknown if that will continue when changes reach Zionsville.

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