Whole Foods Market will remove plastic straws from its nearly 500 stores by July 2019, making it the first national supermarket chain in the United States to do so.
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The plastic straws will be replaced with "recyclable and compostable" paper straws at all domestic Whole Foods locations, including its cafes, and coffee and juice bars, the company said in a news release. Stores will still carry plastic straws as an option for persons with disabilities.
Along with the U.S., the move to paper straws will go into effect at all Whole Foods stores in Canada and the United Kingdom.
The grocery chain said it will also switch to smaller produce bags and replace its hard plastic rotisserie chicken containers with new packaging they estimate will use 70 percent less plastic.
Concern for the environment is a tenet of Whole Foods' mission, A.C. Gallo, the company's president and chief merchandising officer, said in a statement. The grocery giant predicts the move will eliminate 800,000 pounds of plastic each year.
"We recognize that single-use plastics are a concern for many of our customers, Team Members and suppliers, and we’re proud of these packaging changes, which will eliminate an estimated 800,000 pounds of plastics annually," Gallo said. "We will continue to look for additional opportunities to further reduce plastic across our stores."
The Plastic Pollution Coalition, a non-profit organization aimed at eliminating this type of pollution, estimates about 500 million plastic straws are used in the U.S. per day.
"These short-lived tools are usually dropped into a garbage can with no further thought, instantly becoming a source of plastic pollution," their website states.
The decision by Whole Foods — a subsidiary of Amazon — is just the latest in a trend of entities moving away from plastic.
New York state's ban on single-use plastic bags was signed into law in April and will go into effect in March 2020. California and Hawaii already have similar legislation in place.
Starbucks, in July 2018, announced plastic straws would be replaced from all of its more than 28,000 global locations with strawless lids and "alternate-material" straws.