The Kroger Co. is working to phase out single-use plastic bags and transition to reusable bags across its banners by 2025.
Part of the Cincinnati-based grocery giant’s Zero Hunger | Zero Waste sustainability program – which aims to end hunger in the communities Kroger serves and eliminate waste across the company by 2025 – the initiative will begin with the QFC banner in the Pacific Northwest, which will complete the transition next year.
The decision also aligns with the Restock Kroger pillar to “Live Kroger’s Purpose” through social impact, said Mike Donnelly, Kroger’s EVP and COO.
"We listen very closely to our customers and our communities, and we agree with their growing concerns,” he said. “That’s why, starting today at QFC, we will begin the transition to more sustainable options."
“It’s a bold move that will better protect our planet for future generations,” added Rodney McMullen, Kroger chairman and CEO.
Kroger said it will solicit customer feedback and work with NGOs and community partners to ensure a responsible transition. It also will continue to offer paper bags during the transition period, the retailer told Progressive Grocer, although its ultimate goal is to move to reusable bags exclusively.
"We recognize that it may be challenging for some of our customers to incur the cost of purchasing multiple reusable bags," Kristal Howard, Kroger's head of corporate communications, told PG. "We also understand some customers may not have the time or means to bring these bags with them on every store trip. We are committed to supporting our customers and communities to ensure we don’t put an undue burden on any shopper."
According to some estimates,100 billion single-use plastic bags are thrown away every year in the United States, and less than 5 percent of them are recycled annually, Kroger said in a press release, further noting that single-use plastic bags are the fifth most-common single-use plastic found in the environment by magnitude.
Responding to Kroger's announcement, Greenpeace Oceans Campaigner David Pinsky said: “Kroger’s decision to phase out single-use plastic bags is a testament to how consumers are demanding action on plastics from retailers nationwide. Kroger should build upon this effort by getting rid of additional types of single-use plastic. Plastic bags are important for retailers to eliminate, but so are plastic bottles, foam trays and plastic-wrapped fruit and vegetables.
The new initiative follows several other Zero Hunger | Zero Waste initiatives, including Kroger’s goal to divert 90 percent of waste from its landfill by 2020, and its providing more than 91 million pounds of safe, nutritious food to local food banks and pantries in 2017. For its efforts in the program, Kroger earlier this week received recognition on Fortune’s Change the World 2018 list, debuting in the sixth slot. The list highlights the work of 57 big companies worldwide that use their resources to solve societal problems.
Kroger operates 2,800 retail food stores under a variety of banners. It holds the No. 2 spot on PG’s2018 Super 50 list of the top grocers in the United States.