Kroger plans to ditch plastic bags at all stores by 2025

CINCINNATI — The nation's largest grocery chain will be plastic-bag free at all of its nearly 2,800 stores by 2025.

Kroger Co., which orders about 6 billion bags each year, will begin phasing out their use immediately at one of its chains based in Seattle, a city that has been proactive on reducing plastic use.

The company, based in Cincinnati, operates 2,779 stores in 35 states and the District of Columbia, serving almost 9 million people daily through two dozen different grocery chains.

Kroger is seeking customer feedback and will be working with outside groups throughout the transition.

It will begin phasing out plastic bag use Thursday at its QFC stores in and around Seattle. It expects to be plastic-bag free at the chain next year.

"We listen very closely to our customers and our communities, and we agree with their growing concerns," said Mike Donnelly, Kroger's chief operating officer. "That's why, starting today at QFC, we will begin the transition to more sustainable options. This decision aligns with our Restock Kroger commitment to live our purpose through social impact."

So far, the company does not have a timeline on when the shift will reach Indiana.  Kroger Spokesperson Eric Halvorson said American companies as a whole use 100 billion plastic bags a year.

“There are things that are bigger than one company," Halvorson said, "We hope that if we can motivate a solution, and if we can make this a team benefit, than everyone benefits in the long run.”

Halvorson added that the company chose the 2025 completion date to give Kroger time to figure out how best to implement the changes.  By then, biodegradable technology may have advanced, or another alternative may present itself.

“If people buy reusable bags now we will donate a comparable amount of money to food banks," Halvorson said, "Local food banks to put food on the table.”

There is a broader shift under way at major U.S. corporations to reduce waste. Disney, Starbucks, Marriott and McDonald's are getting rid of plastic straws. McDonald's said this year that it will use only recycled or other environmentally friendly materials for its soda cups, Happy Meal boxes and other packaging by 2025. Dunkin' Donuts is phasing out polystyrene foam cups by 2020. Ikea plans to eliminate single-use plastic products from its shelves by 2020.