MINNEAPOLIS — Minneapolis mom Theresa Carter has been a frequent Target customer for years, but seeing how many plastic bags leave the retailer’s stores every day left her feeling concerned for the environment.

“There’s a huge impact, because plastic never really goes away. It just breaks down into smaller and smaller pieces called microplastics, and those end up everywhere,” she said.

On Thursday, Dec. 26, Carter and a group of other Target customers presented the retailer with a petition signed by more than 450,000 people calling for the elimination of plastic bags in stores.

“The response to it has been pretty amazing. I think people just really care about this issue,” she said, adding that signatures have poured in from all 50 states.

Target responded to a request for comment with a statement that it has in place “sustainable packaging goals, plastic bags that are now made with 40 percent recycled content, a 25-year commitment to recycling plastic garment hangers.” The company also says for almost a decade it has had “recycling kiosks at the front of our stores, including ones for plastic bags.”

The U.S. each year generates more than 4 million tons of plastic bags, sacks and wraps, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. Only about 13 percent of that plastic is recycled.

The customer petition follows recent votes in two Minnesota cities — Minneapolis and Duluth — to require retailers to charge customers for disposable bags.

Carter said fees are more effective than incentives when it comes to getting shoppers to change their behavior. Target gives customers a 5-cent credit for each reusable bag they use, but Carter said if Target opts not to end plastic bag use in its stores, the retailer would be better off charging a meaningful fee.

Grocery retailers such as Kroger and Giant Eagle have announced plans to eliminate plastic bags as part of their sustainability efforts.