Editorial | Paper or reusable?

Editorial | Paper or reusable?

The customers have spoken, and one of the nation's largest retail chains says it is beginning to phase out disposable packaging. Soon, plastic bags won't be an option at Kroger Co. stores, such as Ruler Foods in Champaign.

Kroger Co., the nation's largest grocery chain, announced Thursday that it would phase out single-use plastic bags at its 2,800 company-owned stores by 2025 and move even faster at its small QFC chain in and around Seattle. They'll be gone there in 2019.

The Cincinnati-based company isn't the first, and it won't be the last retailer to stop using plastic products, which not only create litter problems but cause serious environmental complications at land and sea.

Businesses ranging from Champaign-Urbana's Black Dog Smoke & Ale House — which now uses straws made of straw — to Whole Foods and IKEA — which moved away from plastic bags 10 years ago — are the leaders.

Kroger said it wants to be there, too.

"This is the way things are headed, and we figured we should be in the front of that," Jessica Adelman, spokeswoman for Kroger, told the Wall Street Journal.

The company's move alone will eliminate an estimated 6 billion bags a year from the environment, Kroger estimates.

But that's a fraction of the 4 million tons of plastic sacks and wraps generated in the United States annually, according to the U.S. EPA. Less than 13 percent of all that material is recycled, although it is easy to do so. Most retailers that use plastic bags also allow customers to return them conveniently.

Kroger said it will phase out the use of plastics, first offering paper bags and selling reusable bags for a dollar or two. But seven years from now, they'll be gone entirely.

Other retailers undoubtedly will follow Kroger's lead and act responsibly to reduce the nation's waste stream.

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