Wegmans announced it will eliminate plastic bags companywide by the end of 2022. With this decision, the company’s goal is to shift all customers to reusable bags, what it called “the best option to solve the environmental challenge of single-use grocery bags.”
“We understand shoppers are accustomed to receiving plastic bags at checkout, and losing that option requires a significant change. We are here to help our customers with this transition as we focus on doing what’s right for the environment,” said Jason Wadsworth, Wegmans category merchant for packaging, energy and sustainability. “As we’ve encountered plastic bag legislation in numerous markets, we’ve learned there’s more we can do, and a bigger impact we can make, together with our customers.”
A press release said, “Wegmans will incentivize the use of reusable bags by charging five cents per paper bag, an approach that has proven successful in New York and other markets. In stores where the company has already eliminated plastic bags, on average, paper bags are used for 20%-25% of transactions, while the remaining 75%-80% use reusable bags, or no bag at all. By eliminating plastic bags from the rest of our stores and focusing on transitioning our customers to reusable bags, we’re preventing approximately 345,000,000 single-use bags from going into circulation in a year’s time.”
The amount collected from the paper-bag charge will be donated to each store’s local food bank and United Way. In 2021, the more than $1.7 million Wegmans collected and donated from the bag charge was used to increase access to wholesome food and address the most critical needs of local communities.
Wegmans’ ‘Road to Reusable’
In 2019, ahead of the New York state plastic bag ban – which was originally slated to take effect in March 2020 – Wegmans piloted the removal of plastic bags at its Ithaca and Corning, stores, as well as its Richmond, Virginia, stores. The New York pilot was aimed at understanding the true impact of removing plastic bags, how to make the transition seamless for employees and customers, and how to help customers with the shift to reusable bags. In Richmond, the focus was on understanding how to help customers with the switch when legislation isn’t the driving factor.
Following the successful completion of both pilots, Wegmans eliminated plastic bags at all its New York stores in January 2020, ahead of the state ban. Today, plastic bags have been eliminated at 61 stores, including additional Virginia locations, as well as at select stores in Massachusetts and Maryland. Wegmans will transition out of plastic and paper single-use bags at all nine of its New Jersey stores on May 4, in accordance with the state’s bag ban.
Wegmans will take a phased approach to eliminating single-use plastic bags at its remaining 45 stores throughout the second half of 2022 to accommodate paper- and reusable-bag supply.
The press release said, “At the time of each rollout, Wegmans will work to ensure consistency in its approach across all markets, unless legislation dictates otherwise. All new Wegmans stores will open with paper bags as the sole single-use bag option.
“Wegmans’ elimination of single-use bags is coupled with its commitment to reduce single-use plastics. Wegmans has committed to reducing its in-store plastic packaging made from fossil fuels, along with other single-use plastics, by 10 million pounds by 2024.”
Wegmans Food Markets is a 106-store supermarket chain with stores in New York, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Virginia, Maryland, Massachusetts and North Carolina.