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Wegmans to eliminate plastic bags companywide by the end of this year

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Beth Adams/WXXI News
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Wegmans will eliminate the use of plastic grocery bags across the supermarket company by the end of this year.

That already has happened in New York state, where a ban on the carryout bags began in 2020.

But Wegmans announced on Thursday that about 45 stores out of the more than 100 stores in their chain still allow use of the disposal plastic bags, and the company will phase out use of those bags through the next several months.

“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.”

Wegmans spokesperson Tracy Van Auker said that in places where the single-use bags have been eliminated, the reaction has generally been positive.

“Customers have definitely responded well. Obviously, anytime you eliminate an option that is a go-to, for most customers, it does require a little bit of behavioral change,” Van Auker said. “But overall, the response has been great. And we see people bringing in reusable bags for the majority of their shopping trips.”

Van Auker said that when Wegmans eliminates use of the bags, there is the option of using reusable bags, or buying a paper bag at a nickel each.

When that happens, the proceeds from the paper bag sales are donated to each store’s local food bank and United Way. Wegmans said that in 2021, that resulted in more than $1.7 million being collected and donated from that bag charge.

Wegmans said that 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% of customers use the reusable bags or no bag at all.

The company said that by eliminating plastic bags from the rest of its stores and focusing on transitioning customers to reusable bags, that is preventing approximately 345-million single-use bags from going into circulation in a year’s time.

The elimination of the single-use plastic grocery bags, does not affect the ongoing use of the smaller plastic bags for certain items such as meats and produce.

Randy Gorbman is WXXI's director of news and public affairs. Randy manages the day-to-day operations of WXXI News on radio, television, and online.