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Kroger Co. begins phasing out single-use plastic grocery bags

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A shopper checks out with their plastic bags at the West Side Kroger in Charleston in 2018. Kroger announced it will be phasing out single-use plastic bags at its stores by 2025.

HUNTINGTON — Stores owned by The Kroger Co. are starting their transition away from offering single-use plastic bags, although it’s unclear just when the policy will be implemented in the Tri-State.

QFC, a division of The Kroger Co. based in Seattle, Washington, this week stopped offering single-use plastic bags to customers.

“With Earth Day approaching, we realized this was the perfect opportunity to accelerate the removal of single-use plastic in our stores and take the next bold step in our Zero Hunger/Zero Waste journey,” Suzy Monford, president of QFC, said in a prepared announcement. “We listen closely to our customers and our communities, and we agree with their growing concerns about use-once, throw-it-away plastic bags. This is why we are leading the change and inviting our customers to join us as we help to create zero waste neighborhoods.”

Kroger officials with the Mid-Atlantic Division said this transition has not yet taken effect in West Virginia or any of its other stores outside the Seattle area. Kroger serves 9 million customers every day at its nearly 2,800 stores in 35 states and the District of Columbia.

“While the change will take place in all stores by 2025, the phaseout began April 1 with Seattle-based QFC stores, the company’s first retail division to phase out plastic bags,” according to Allison McGee with Kroger Mid-Atlantic.

Last August, Kroger announced a national plan to eliminate single-use plastic bags in all stores as part of its Zero Hunger/Zero Waste initiative to end hunger in the communities it serves and eliminate waste across the company.

Kroger customers will be able to buy reusable bags at its stores for $1 to $2 each. While brown paper bags will be available for free, Kroger says its goal is to fully transition to reusable bags.

Throughout April, QFC will donate $1 for each reusable bag sold in its stores to The Nature Conservancy, a global nonprofit committed to protecting the earth’s lands and waters.

Kroger said it is also looking to cut back or phase out plastic bags for produce and meat, but it’s focusing on eliminating checkout bags for now.

Some estimates suggest that 100 billion single-use plastic bags are thrown away in the U.S. every year. Currently, less than 5 percent of plastic bags are recycled annually in America, and single-use plastic bags are the fifth-most common single-use plastic found in the environment by magnitude.

Some other grocery stores, like Aldi, already have stopped using plastic bags. According to the company’s website, Aldi customers are encouraged to bring their own grocery bags or they can purchase reusable shopping bags from Aldi.

Walmart continues to offer plastic shopping bags, but has committed to reducing the number of bags given out by its stores by encouraging the use of reusable bags and giving customers the ability to continue recycling plastic shopping bags, according to its website.

According to Save-A-Lot’s website, the store encourages its shoppers to bring their bags from home.

“Many of our shoppers are concerned about the environment and reuse their bags, but if this is your first trip to Save-A-Lot we do charge a small fee for bags,” the website says. “For our ‘greener’ customers, we also have eco-friendly Save-A-Lot totes.”

FoodFair, which has 19 stores in the Tri-State area, still offers both plastic and paper shopping bags, but according to owner Tim Forth, most customers ask for plastic bags.

“We share the same concern about the overuse of plastics and the environment,” Forth said. “We would love to do recycling, but being a small local company, recycling presents some challenges for us. We are looking into alternatives and the best way for us as a company to be able to meet our customers’ requests, while also addressing the concerns over plastic shopping bags.”

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