For Earth Day From Wegmans: A 40% Recycled Content Bag, To Inspire More Recycling

ROCHESTER, NY – How will your family celebrate Earth Day (April 22) this year? A good place to start is by bringing plastic bags from home to your nearest Wegmans Food Market for recycling. If you do so on April 21 from 11 AM to 3 PM – when Wegmans stores celebrate Earth Day by holding an Organic Festival – you’ll get a coupon for one free Wegmans reusable bag. The Organic Festival will also feature tasting samples of organic foods, plus activities for kids.

For several years, Wegmans has promoted reusable bags as a better alternative for reducing waste, and since their introduction in 2007 Wegmans now uses approximately 4,000 fewer plastic bags per store per day. However despite their popularity, they haven’t replaced plastic at checkout. Some customers simply prefer plastic and others occasionally forget to bring the reusable bags along for shopping. “We need to keep making improvements to our plastic bags since they are used most often. For those who choose to use plastic, we simply ask them to bring the bags back to us for recycling, so that we can make more bags,” said Jason Wadsworth, Wegmans’ sustainability coordinator.

As customers check out, they’ll begin to see a new plastic bag that sets a higher bar for environmental sustainability. At least 40% of its content is plastic bags that conscientious customers have recycled.

“We’re really excited about this,” says Wadsworth. “We’ve never had a plastic bag with so much recycled content before. We’re also introducing the bag-to-bag concept. All of the plastic bags customers bring back to our stores for recycling will now go toward making the 40% bags. This easy-to-understand idea may encourage more customers to return plastic bags for recycling.”

The 40% plastic bag was piloted for more than a year in Wegmans’ Rochester NY-area stores. Coming up with the right recipe for a bag with a high percentage of recycled plastic that still had the strength and flexibility of bags made of virgin plastic took a few tries. “We tweaked things, and now we have a bag that’s better from the sustainability point of view and that performs as well as some of the bags we’ve used in the past,” Wadsworth says.

This year for the first time, the company also created a Recycling Report Card that shows how last year’s efforts stacked up. The report card will be displayed for customers who visit stores during the Organic Festival. Highlights:

• Wegmans donated 16 million pounds of food to local food banks and pantries and composted 2.3 million pounds of food waste, keeping the equivalent of 215 tractor-trailer loads of food out of landfills.
• 107 million pounds of cardboard and office paper were recycled, saving 598,000 trees.
• 3 million pounds of plastic bags and wrapping were recycled during 2011 – saving the equivalent energy use of 381 homes for one year.

There’s also a link between environmental sustainability and organic foods – hence, an Organic Festival held around the time of Earth Day. Choosing organics can benefit the air, water and soil. Organic farmers use time-tested ways to grow crops without synthetic fertilizers and pesticides. They control weeds by tilling them into the soil, they rely on birds and insects to control pests, and they rotate crops to replenish the soil and reduce insect populations. In that way, they keep the balance of nature, protect the water supply, and improve the soil.

Although the coupons for reusable bags will only be available on April 21 from 11 AM to 3 PM, the Organic Festival will also be celebrated on Friday, April 20 from 4:00 to 6:00 PM and Saturday, April 28 from 11:00 AM to 3:00 PM.

For more on Wegmans’ efforts in sustainability, look for the “About Us” section at the bottom of the homepage, and click on the “sustainability” link.

Wegmans Food Markets, Inc. is a 79-store supermarket chain with stores in New York, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Virginia, Maryland, and Massachusetts. The family-owned company, founded in 1916, is recognized as an industry leader and innovator. Wegmans has been named one of the ‘100 Best Companies to Work For’ by FORTUNE magazine for fifteen consecutive years. In 2012, Wegmans ranked #4 on the list.

Source: Wegmans Food Markets, Inc.