Wegmans Food Markets will soon reach one of its main sustainability goals: the elimination of single-use plastic shopping bags at all of its stores.
Rochester, N.Y.-based Wegmans said it aims to remove disposable plastic grocery bags at its 18 stores in Pennsylvania by Thursday, Sept. 22, at which time the regional grocer will have finished its plan to discontinue them chainwide by the year’s end.
As Wegmans has phased out disposable plastic shopping bags, it has urged shoppers to shift to reusable bags. (Photo courtesy of Wegmans)
“Completing our transition out of single-use plastic bags across the company is a big celebration as we continue to expand our sustainability efforts and focus on doing what’s right for the environment,” Jason Wadsworth, category merchant for packaging, energy and sustainability at Wegmans, said in a statement. “We started on this journey in 2019 when we set out to eliminate plastic bags in our New York state stores ahead of the state plastic bag ban. A lot has happened over the last three years, but that early success in New York showed us the impact we could make and drove us to continue on our journey to be plastic bag free by the end of 2022.”
Wegmans said the New York pilot in Ithaca and Corning was designed to gauge the impact of eliminating plastic bags, ease the transition for shoppers and associates, and encourage customers to adopt reusable bags. A similar pilot in Richmond, Va., focused on helping customers make the switch when legislation wasn’t the driving factor.
The supermarket chain ended up eliminating plastic bags at all of its New York stores in January 2020, before the state’s ban took effect that March.
Wegmans noted that its goal involves shifting customers to reusable bags, but paper grocery bags will continue to be available for 5 cents each, with the amount collected going to each store’s local United Way chapter. In 2021, the retailer donated more than $1.7 million from the bag fee.
Charging for paper bags is encouraging customers to turn to reusable bags, Wegmans said, noting that at stores where single-use plastic bags have been removed, 75% to 80% of shoppers use reusable bags or no bag at all, and 20% to 25% use paper bags.
The elimination of plastic bags from the remaining Wegmans stores and the shift to reusable bags will prevent about 345 million single-use bags from going into circulation over the course of a year, the company reported. The retailer added that it aims to reduce in-store plastic packaging made from fossil fuels, along with other single-use plastics, by 10 million pounds by 2024.
Overall, Wegmans operates 108 stores in New York, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Virginia, Maryland, Massachusetts and North Carolina.