What's In Store

Harris Teeter parent company to phase out plastic bags at all of its stores

Harris Teeter’s parent company Kroger is phasing out single-use plastic bags by 2025 at its family of stores.
Harris Teeter’s parent company Kroger is phasing out single-use plastic bags by 2025 at its family of stores. Observer Archive

Harris Teeter’s parent company Kroger is phasing out single-use plastic bags by 2025.

The grocery giant said in a statement Tuesday that it will transition instead to reusable bags at its family of stores, which includes Harris Teeter, Mariano’s, Roundy’s and a number of other popular grocery chains.

Kroger said its chain QFC, based in Seattle, will be the first retailer to phase out plastic bags, and that transition will be complete in 2019.

“It’s a bold move that will better protect our planet for future generations,” Kroger CEO Rodney McMullen said.

Only a few other retailers have eliminated single-use plastic bags. Whole Foods got rid of them in 2008, for instance, and now only uses recyclable paper bags.

The decision by Kroger, the second-largest grocer in the U.S., could pressure competitors to follow suit.

“A large company such as Kroger can drive change throughout the supermarket industry by banning plastic. Don’t be surprised to see other supermarkets implement this idea,” said Patrick Penfield, a professor of supply chain management at Syracuse University.

Mass plastic-bag banning could, however, hurt the plastic-bag industry, which employs 30,000 people nationwide, Penfield said.

Harris Teeter spokeswoman Danna Robinson said the grocer needs several years to make the transition because “we don’t want to assume that what makes sense for one customer works for everyone.”

“We will need time to finalize our plans, as a commitment of this magnitude will take time. For now, our shoppers should not expect to see any immediate changes in their Harris Teeter,” Robinson said in an email.

Citing certain estimates, Kroger said 100 billion single-use plastic bags are thrown away in the U.S. every year.

Several cities and states, such as Chicago and California, have bans on single-use plastic bags at large retail stores. Others have fees for customers who opt to use carryout paper or plastic bags at checkout, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

The move away from plastic bags is part of Kroger’s “Zero Hunger Zero Waste” initiative aimed at addressing environmental and hunger issues. As part of that program, Kroger said it sent more than 91 million pounds of groceries to local food banks and pantries in 2017.

Harris Teeter, acquired by Cincinnati-based Kroger in 2014, is the No. 1 grocery chain in the Charlotte region by market share, according to sales-tracking firm Chain Store Guide. The chain operates nearly 250 stores, including about 60 in the Charlotte metro area.

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Katherine Peralta: 704-358-5079, @katieperalta