Wegmans Begins Two-store Pilot to Eliminate Plastic Grocery Bags in New York State

ITHACA, NY – Beginning Monday, July 29, Wegmans will pilot the removal of plastic grocery bags at its Ithaca and Corning, New York stores. This comes after an announcement in April that Wegmans will eliminate plastic bags at all its New York State stores ahead of the state ban that takes effect on March 1, 2020.

Paper grocery bags will continue to be available, however 5 cents will be charged for each bag. Wegmans’ goal is to convert all customers to reusable bags, thereby eliminating the need to charge. In the meantime, the amount collected will be donated to the Food Bank of the Southern Tier.

In making the announcement, Wegmans outlined its position:

We are determined to do what’s right by encouraging all of our customers to switch to reusable bags, the best option to solve the environmental challenge of single-use grocery bags. 

A consequence of a plastic bag ban will be an increase in the use of paper bags, which for a host of reasons, are bad for the environment. 

In stores where a small fee is charged, reusable bag usage goes up dramatically. If, together, we can make that happen in our 46 New York State stores, it will have an immeasurable environmental impact for decades to come.

In Germantown, Maryland, where Wegmans is required by law to charge a 5-cent fee for paper and plastic bags, 65% of bags used are reusable, compared to a 20% average in Wegmans’ New York State stores.

Since Wegmans introduced reusable bags in 2007, the company has put an emphasis on educating customers of their benefits. In fact, a recent survey of Wegmans customers found that 95% already own at least one reusable bag, and 87% have three or more.

Shifting customers to paper bags by eliminating plastic has an additional negative impact on the environment; whereas increasing the use of reusable bags reduces the overall number of single-use bags, positively impacting the environment:

  • It takes seven tractor trailers to transport the same number of paper bags as plastic bags carried by one tractor trailer.
  • It takes greater resources and energy to make and recycle paper compared to plastic. 
  • Paper bags do not breakdown in landfills.
  • Paper bags are harmful to waterways due to the chemicals used in the manufacturing process.

Reusable bags also offer more convenience. They hold more groceries without breaking or tearing, requiring fewer bags per shopping trip than paper bags, and their sturdy handles make it easier for customers to load and unload the car. 

Wegmans Food Markets, Inc. is a 99-store supermarket chain with stores in New York, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Virginia, Maryland, and Massachusetts. The family company, recognized as an industry leader and innovator, celebrated its 100th anniversary in 2016. Wegmans has been named one of the ‘100 Best Companies to Work For’ by FORTUNE magazine for 22 consecutive years, ranking #3 in 2019. The company was also ranked #1 for corporate reputation among the 100 most visible companies, according to the 2019 Harris Poll Reputation Quotient® study.