Retailers

Wegmans to Eliminate Plastic Bags Chainwide This Year

Aims to shift all customers to reusable bags
Wegmans
Photograph: Shutterstock

Wegmans announced April 14 that it will eliminate plastic bags chainwide by the end of 2022, with the goal of shifting all customers to reusable bags.

The Rochester, N.Y.-based chain, with 106 stores in New York, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Virginia, Maryland, Massachusetts and North Carolina, will incentivize the use of reusable bags by charging 5 cents per paper bag, with the amount collected being donated to each store’s local food bank and United Way. This approach, Wegmans said, has proven successful in New York and other markets.

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Wegmans in 2019 piloted the removal of plastic bags at its Ithaca and Corning, N.Y., stores—ahead of New York’s statewide plastic bag ban, which took effect March 2020—as well as its Richmond, Va., stores. The New York pilot was aimed at understanding the 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 completion of both pilots, Wegmans eliminated plastic bags at all its New York stores in January 2020, and today, plastic bags have been eliminated at 61 stores, including additional Virginia locations, as well as at select stores in Massachusetts and Maryland.

At its remaining 45 stores, Wegmans said it will take a phased approach to eliminating single-use plastic bags throughout the second half of 2022 to accommodate paper- and reusable-bag supply. All new Wegmans stores will open with paper bags as the sole single-use bag option.

“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, category merchant for packaging, energy and sustainability for Wegmans, in a release. “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.”

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, the grocer said.

Wegmans, which was recently named to Fortune’s 100 Best Companies to Work For list, is also committed to reducing single-use plastics beyond plastic bags. It has pledged to reduce its in-store plastic packaging made from fossil fuels, along with other single-use plastics, by 10 million pounds by 2024

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