US-based retailer Natural Grocers has claimed to have diverted 500 million single-use plastic bags from landfill since 2009 as part of its ‘Bring Your Own Bag’ programme.

The checkout programme was initially introduced to reduce the amount of packaging and waste across the country.

In addition to encouraging customers to bring their own bags, Natural Grocers promotes the use of reusable bags and offers upcycled cardboard boxes from shipments.

In 2020, the company switched to plant-based, garden-compostable produce bags, as well as 100% recyclable and compostable paper bags.

Since last year, it also cut the use of plastic stretch wrap in its bulk packaging facility and distribution centre by approximately 50%, increasing product volumes subsequently.

The retailer offers only United States Department of Agriculture-certified organic produce and sources recyclable, biodegradable and/or compostable packaging while using the least amount of packaging materials.

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Natural Grocers’ vice-president of marketing Raquel Isely said: “Natural Grocers is proud to achieve this milestone, with the help of our conscientious customers. Eliminating the use of plastic bags at checkout was a system-level decision that was enthusiastically embraced by our company, customers and good4u Crew, knowing it was an important way to reduce the environmental impact of plastic bag waste.

“This practice has also enabled us to donate over $1.5m to our local food banks, which perfectly aligns with one of our Five Founding Principles, ‘A Commitment to Community’. From the smallest to the largest, we believe sustainable practices contribute to the positive changes we are committed to seeing in the world.

“Natural Grocers continues to drive these practices within the industry, while educating our customers to support a more regenerative future for the planet.”