One-and-done plastics took another hit this week when the nation’s largest grocer, with a major presence in metro Atlanta, announced that it is phasing out use of plastic bags at its checkout counters nationwide.
Kroger announced Thursday that it will stop putting groceries in single-use plastic bags by 2025. Company leaders hope to transition customers to reusable bags rather than disposable ones that often end up in landfills or as litter. Customers will be able to buy reusable bags at its stores for $1 to $2 apiece, the Associated Press reported.
Paper bags — that blast from the past — may also be an alternative for the chain, a local Kroger spokesman said.
“We don’t have a definite timeline” for when the change will take place in the chain’s 125 stores in metro Atlanta, spokesman Felix Turner said.
Randy Savage, the operations manager at a plastic packaging and bags manufacturer in Doraville, wouldn’t be surprised to see more such shifts come to his industry.
So far, “it really hasn’t affected what we do at this plant,” Savage said. “It may in the future.”
Atlanta Cello & Poly makes packaging such as bags for potato chips, primarily for small businesses, he said. While the company can produce plastic bags that can be recycled, most of its customers haven’t shown much interest because prices can be double or triple those of other bags, Savage said.
Some Atlanta area shoppers were mostly supportive of Kroger’s plans.
Donna Rice of Norcross said she already keeps reusable shopping bags in the back of her vehicle. She just forgets to use them. She’d be happy to, though, she said. “Anything to save the environment.”
Forris Bonds said she already had plans to crochet Kroger disposable bags into reusable ones to hold her groceries.
Still, “it’s going to be hard” for many shoppers to make the transition away from the current system of disposables, she said. “It’s easy to just grab a bag and go.”
Patricia Lux reuses plastic grocery bags to hold her recyclables, but she questioned the sense of using a bag for five minutes that might linger in the environment for years. Kroger’s move “is a good idea for the planet,” she said.
John Isaacs, though, is wary about the company’s shift.
A truck driver and former Marine living in Norcross, he said he is adamant about recycling, often picks up other peoples’ litter, and cuts six-pack plastic rings to prevent animals from getting stuck in them. But he questioned whether Kroger is motivated in part by a desire to sell more of its reusable bags.
“I don’t think it’s necessary,” he said. “Where does it stop?”
Kroger’s Turner said the supermarket chain is making the move to further reduce waste. Bags used elsewhere in the store for fresh produce, seafood and some other products are not part of the announced phase-out, he said, but are something “we are looking into.”
Kroger said it will seek feedback on the transition from customers and community organizations.
Publix, another grocer with a major presence in Atlanta, hasn't announced whether it will make a similar move on disposable checkout bags. The company said recycled material makes up about a third of the shopping bags it uses, according to an emailed statement from a spokeswoman.
Like Kroger, Publix provides recycling bins at its stores and the company said it recycled more than 10,300 tons of plastics last year.
Plastic bags have been under fire for years around the nation, with some communities banning their use at stores or requiring retailers to charge for each bag used. More recently, attention has spread to plastic straws, such as in California, where the state is considering new limits.
Efforts to reduce plastic bag usage have been contemplated in Athens and on Tybee Island. But the Georgia Municipal Association said it isn’t aware of any plastic bag bans put in place yet by local governments in the state.
Some Georgia legislators tried to block local governments from banning plastic shopping bags at retail locations. The legislation, which critics dubbed the “plastic bags everywhere bill,” failed to pass in 2015.
Kroger, which faces bag restrictions in some of its markets, cited estimates that 100 billion single-use plastic bags are thrown away in the U.S. annually, with the company going through about 6 billion itself. Less than 5 percent of the nation’s plastic bags are recycled, according to the company.
Disney announced it will reduce use of plastic bags and drop plastic straws, stirrers and polystyrene cups, as well as small bottles of shampoo and conditioner, in its hotels and cruise ships.
McDonald’s is dropping plastic straws and said it will use environmentally friendly materials for soft drink cups, Happy Meal boxes and packaging by 2025, according to The Associated Press.