Wegmans is getting rid of plastic shopping bags at all of its New York stores on Jan. 27 – a little more than a month before a statewide ban on the single-use bags takes effect.
Wegmans, which said last April that it had hoped to stop using single-use plastic bags by the end of 2019, has tested the ban at stores in Corning and Ithaca.
The supermarket chain said it hopes its customers will shift to reusable bags, which it believes is the most environmentally friendly alternative for shoppers.
While the state law gives individual counties and municipalities the option of imposing a 5-cent fee for the use of paper bags, Wegmans said it will charge a nickel for each paper bag in areas, like Erie and Niagara counties, where the extra 5-cent fee has not been implemented. The supermarket chain said it will donate the money collected from its paper bag charge to local food banks.
“By adding a charge for each paper bag, our hope is to incentivize the adoption of reusable bags, and in time, achieve our goal of eliminating all single-use bags,” said Jason Wadsworth, Wegmans packaging and sustainability manager. “This approach has proven successful at our two-store pilot."
About 20% of all the bags currently used at Wegmans stores are reusable, Wadsworth said. During the pilot program, the percentage of bags that were single-use dropped to about 20%.
A recent survey of Wegmans customers found that 95% already own at least one reusable bag, and 87% have three or more.
“We learned a lot from the pilot that will help ensure a smooth transition out of plastic bags in the rest of our New York stores for our customers and employees,” Wadsworth said.
Wegmans also has 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 chain said in April that it wants 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.