Whole Foods Market is eliminating disposable plastic straws from its stores in the U.S., Canada and the United Kingdom in July, the company announced Monday.
It’s believed to be the first national supermarket chain to do so.
The straws are used at Allegro coffee bars, juice bars and cafes and instead, customers can get recyclable, compostable paper straws. However, Whole Foods said plastic straws will still be available for customers with disabilities.
The Austin-based chain, owned by Amazon since 2017, said it also has reduced the size of its plastic produce bags and is replacing rotisserie chicken in bags, rather than hard plastic containers. The bags contain 70% less plastic.
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The trio of initiatives is expected reduce an estimated 800,000 pounds of plastic per year, according to Whole Foods.
“For almost 40 years, caring for the environment has been central to our mission and how we operate,” Whole Foods president A.C. Gallo said in a statement. “We recognize that single-use plastics are a concern for many of our customers, team members and suppliers. … We will continue to look for additional opportunities to further reduce plastic across our stores.”
Whole Foods is not among the biggest grocers in the U.S. Walmart is the largest grocery retailer and Kroger, the biggest traditional chain.
“It’s a first strike that will reinforce Whole Foods’ original positioning as the retailer that cares about the planet,” said Phil Lempert, founder of supermarketguru.com, which monitors industry news and trends.
But the move is unlikely to lure cost-conscious food shoppers from other stores to the chain nicknamed Whole Paycheck due to its high prices, he added.
“But it will get those who have an eco-bent, especially Generation Z and Millennials, to have a better feeling about Whole Foods,” Lempert said.
Numerous other businesses are already axing plastic straws. For example, last year, Starbucks announced plans to eliminate plastic straws at its stores around the globe by 2020 and McDonald’s revealed plans to roll out paper straws in the U.K. and Ireland and to test paper straws in select restaurants in the U.S., France, Sweden, Norway and Australia
Other industries taking action include airlines Delta, American and Alaska; cruise lines, such as Royal Caribbean and Hurtigruten; entertainment venues, including SeaWorld, Busch Gardens and Disneyland Paris; the food-service company Bon Appétit Management, whose 1,000-plus clients include museums and college campuses; and hotels, like Marriott, Hilton and Four Seasons.
Follow USA TODAY reporter Zlati Meyer on Twitter: @ZlatiMeyer