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Kroger’s Plastic Bags Plan is Further Evidence of Private Sector Sustainability Push
Kroger Co., the largest supermarket chain in the country, recently announced plans to get rid of single-use plastic bags in stores by 2025. It’s the most recent in a series of announcements by large companies striving to hit sustainability goals in the coming years.
Sherburne Abbott served as a deputy to President Obama’s science advisor in the Senate-confirmed position of Associate Director of Environment and Energy (head of the division of environment and energy) in the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy during President Obama’s first term.
She is currently University Professor and program director for the Environmental, Sustainability and Policy integrated learning major at Syracuse University’s Maxwell School.
“Kroger’s initiative to phase out the distribution of plastic bags is another example of the private sector stepping up to help solve environmental problems and promote sustainability.
“Plastic bags were invented for food safety and convenience. Although typically used just once for less than 15 minutes, those bags can linger for hundreds of years in landfills or travel to the oceans where they can end up floating in the Pacific Garbage Patch, an area between Hawaii and California more than twice the size of Texas, or interacting with marine wildlife. They’ve even been found 36,000 feet down in the deepest and most remote point in the Pacific Ocean—the Mariana Trench.
“Tragically, some estimates suggest as many as 100,000 marine animals are killed by plastic bags annually. The last study of how much plastic enters the ocean, published online in Science in 2015, concluded that about 4-12 million metric tons of plastic washed into the oceans in 2010, probably enough to cover all the coasts around the planet.
“But that’s only about one percent of the world’s plastic production. Where does the other 99 percent end up? Untangling this and other examinations of the full life cycle, greenhouse gas, and health and safety implications of using plastic bags, paper bags, disposable bags, or recycled bags are needed. That same study estimates a doubling of plastic in the oceans by 2025, the same year Kroger proposes to end the distribution of plastic bags from their stores.
“In the meantime, Kroger could advance sustainability by encouraging reuse and recycling of plastic bags already in the marketplace, as well as ramp up its phase-out nationally.”
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