Why Some Walmart Locations Are Drastically Changing Their Bag Policy

Today's shoppers — especially younger ones — have sustainability on their minds. A recent study by The International Food Information Council found that Gen Z consumers care more about sustainable food practices than any other generation, and this care is spearheading a much larger eco-conscious movement.

Last month, U.K. tuna brand Princes announced that it will only be sourcing fish from Marine Stewardship Council-certified sustainable fisheries by 2025 (via Seafood Source). Sustainable shoppers want to prioritize ways to eliminate food waste, per Food Business News, and many meal kits are implementing more sustainable packaging to further decrease their already-low environmental impact, according to a 2019 study. As it turns out, sustainability can even lower operating costs for some restaurants, says QSR Magazine, by reducing overhead and waste.

Laura Abshire, Director of Sustainability Policy at the National Restaurant Association, says today's customers "want to know what a business stands for and what it's doing to minimize the environmental impact. They want to support businesses that align with their values." Now, the biggest name in the supermarket industry is demonstrating its commitment to sustainability in a big way. According to Colorado-based news outlet KRDO, starting September 15, a Monument, CO Walmart will no longer offer plastic grocery bags. Walmart locations in New Jersey, Vermont, and Maine have already begun transitioning away from single-use plastic bags and, reportedly, Walmart plans to gradually implement this policy across all of its Colorado stores by 2023. Here's what it means for shoppers.

Bagless is the new black

In 2021, Colorado state legislatures passed Colorado House Bill 1162 "Concerning the Management of Plastic Products." This environmentally-conscious initiative states that food retailers and stores will be prohibited from giving customers single-use plastic bags starting January 1, 2024. According to a Walmart spokesperson, via KRDO, the supermarket giant will instead encourage shoppers to bring their own reusable grocery bags, and will also offer reusable bags for purchase. Delivery orders will arrive in paper bags. Per New York-based news outlet WKBW, New York Walmarts statewide are going bagless much sooner: October 1.

When Maine officially went bagless on July 1, a spokesperson told WGME that this move is helping the company advance toward its ultimate goal of "zero emissions" by 2040. Other major grocery stores have made similar commitments: In 2018, Kroger announced plans to totally eliminate plastic bags at all stores nationwide by 2025, via CNN. Kroger has also revamped its generic milk jug design to use 10% less plastic, part of an initiative CEO Rodney McMullen calls a "bold move that will better protect our planet." Walmart's latest announcement could be part of a much larger movement toward sustainability.