Wegmans plans to stop using plastic grocery bags by the end of the year - at least two months before the state ban on single-use plastic bags takes effect.
“We want to get out ahead of this because we have a lot to learn from our customers about how we can help them make the shift to reusable bags, which are far better than paper bags for the environment,” said Jason Wadsworth, Wegmans packaging and sustainability manager.
The state ban on single-use plastic bags, signed into law on Monday, takes effect on March 1.
Wegmans also said it wants to reduce the amount of plastic it uses in its packaging and plans to eliminate some of the plastic packaging it now uses with materials made from plant-based renewable fiber.
The Rochester-based supermarket chain said Monday it hopes to reduce its use of plastic by 2 million pounds this year, with a goal of cutting plastic use by 10 million pounds within five years.
Wegmans said it is working with the Center for Sustainable Packaging at the Rochester Institute of Technology to develop new packaging alternatives. The company also switched from using plastic straws and drink stir sticks to ones made out of renewable fibers during the first quarter of this year at all of its stores and work sites.
The sustainable packaging initiative is part of the company's Zero Waste program that was launched in 2016 as a one-year pilot at a Canandaigua store that has since been rolled out to 30 supermarkets.
As part of its waste reduction efforts, the chain's food bar containers now use 40 percent less plastic and are recyclable. Its donut and Celebration Cake boxes are made from 100 percent recycled paper content. Its produce bags are made from 100 percent plant-based renewable materials and its rotisserie chicken pouches use 75 percent less plastic than the plastic domes Wegmans once used.