ST. GEORGE — Executives at Smith’s and other Kroger stores across the nation are hoping shoppers will ditch disposable bags in favor of more environmentally-friendly ones.
Kroger, the nation’s largest grocery chain, will begin phasing out the use of plastic disposable bags at its stores by 2025. That includes all Smith’s Food and Drug stores in Utah like the two in St. George or the one in Cedar City. While brown paper bags may be available, Smith’s corporate affairs manager Aubriana Martindale told St. George News the goal is to completely transition to reusable bags.
“The goal is to use not paper, not plastic, but reusable bags at all our stores,” she said.
Although the transition to reusable bags was announced by Smith’s parent company Kroger, the plan works into Smith’s “zero hunger, zero waste” initiative. Completely eliminating plastic bags will help Smith’s with its goal of diverting 90 percent of waste away from landfills.
“We want to help benefit our planet,” she said. “The stores in which we operate are built right into our neighborhood communities and eliminating waste is the right thing to do.”
Incentives like giving gas points to customers who use reusable bags are already in place at Smith’s stores, so Martindale said she hopes customers start using reusable bags today and not wait until 2025. Reusable bags will be sold at Smith’s store for $1-$2, and for each one sold, Smith’s will donate a meal to a hungry family in the community through the Utah Food Bank.
The reason the 2025 deadline to completely eliminate plastic bags is so far away is to allow the transition to be phased out gradually over time, Martindale said. So far, 150 cities with Kroger stores, not including St. George or Cedar City, have already begun eliminating plastic bags.
Kroger orders about 6 billion bags each year for its stores in 35 states and Washington, D.C., which cater to nearly 9 million people daily through two dozen different grocery chains like Smith’s.
The U.S. each year generates more than 4 million tons of plastic bags, sacks and wraps, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. Only about 13 percent of that plastic is recycled.
David Pinsky, of Greenpeace, lauded the shift at Kroger, saying plastic pollution is killing sea life as well as impacting the health of humans. He 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, Styrofoam trays, and plastic-wrapped fruit and vegetables.
Anyone else with ideas on how to effectively eliminate waste at Smith’s grocery stores is asked to post in on social media using #zerohungerzerowaste.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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