Within the next seven years, Kroger, owner of Fry’s Foods in Arizona, will phase out plastic bags to become the latest company to respond to the criticism against single-use plastics.
The grocery chain will begin its transition to reusable bags in all 2,800 stores with the Seattle area.
Pam Giannonatti, spokeswoman for the Fry’s Food division of Kroger, is unsure of when the transition will begin in Arizona. In the meantime, she hopes that customers will begin changing their habits.
“We’re highly encouraging our customers to shift their shopping habits and use reusable bags,” Giannonatti said. “We’re not taking away the bags tomorrow.”
The plastic bag phaseout is part of the Zero Hunger, Zero Waste initiative at Kroger, which is the largest grocer nationwide and with 123 stores is also the market-share leader in Arizona. The company is trying to become zero waste by 2020 and is also working to minimize food waste by 2025.
“It’s about being a leader,” Giannonatti said. “It’s the right thing to do for the environment and for the coming generations.”
Kroger is the latest large company to eliminate or reduce single-use plastics in response to worldwide environmental concerns. Disney, Starbucks and McDonald’s also recently announced intentions to get rid of plastic straws.
Chicago, New York, Los Angeles, along with several other cities has become involved in the fight against plastic waste with bans or fees on plastic bags. Efforts are also being made in Arizona.
Bisbee passed an ordinance in 2012 that banned retailers from providing plastic bags. Flagstaff and Tempe contemplated similar ordinances a few years later.
In 2015, the legislature decided to prohibit cities and municipalities from regulating plastic bags and other single-use containers. Supporters claim the law was needed because retail organizations and state lawmakers were concerned about confusing people with a hodgepodge of local ordinances.
“A law like this makes it consistent throughout the state,” said Tim McCabe, president of the Arizona Food Marketing Alliance. “Consumers and tourists shouldn’t have to wonder from city to city if they are going to have to pay for plastic bags or if they have to bring in reusable bags.”
Once the law was passed, Flagstaff and Tempe dropped their plans for plastic bag bans. After Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich said the ban violated state law and then threatened to withhold state funding from the city, Bisbee repealed its ordinance in 2017 after.
Diane Brown, executive director of the Arizona Public Interest Research Group, a consumer advocacy organization, said Arizona’s law means businesses and the effort to reduce single-use plastics in the state will need to be led by individuals.
“By Kroger taking the lead and stating that it will phase out single-use plastic bags, we expect other large grocery chains and businesses will recognize the economic and public health benefits and follow suit,” Brown said.
Single-use plastics have come under increasing criticism for their harm to wildlife and the environment.
The average American uses approximately 1,500 plastic bags a year, but only 1 percent are recycled, according to the Center for Biological Diversity in Tucson. The rest end of the bags end up in landfills or the ocean, where the bags break down into microplastics that contain toxins and can harm wildlife that may mistake the brightly colored plastic for food.
Plastic bags also use large amounts of oil in the manufacturing process, which contributes to greenhouse gas emissions and worsens air pollution.
“Nothing that we use for a few minutes should threaten our health for hundreds of years,” Brown said.