Wegmans to eliminate plastic bags in NY stores


BUFFALO, NY (WIVB) — Wegmans announced it will remove single-use plastic grocery bags from all its New York State stores starting Monday, January 27.

The removal comes ahead of a state ban that takes effect on March 1.

“I think with anything, there’s an adjustment,” said Michele Mehaffy, Wegmans spokesperson, who adds that customers will then have to either purchase paper bags for five cents apiece or bring a reusable handle bag like the ones that Wegmans sells for 99 cents.”Our registers are all going to be reconfigured so they will only be able to accommodate reusable bags.”

“I’m gonna have to start looking for my little sized bags that I use for my trash,” said shopper Michael Field, who reuses the plastic handle bags for his small wastepaper baskets. “I’ve been hoarding them for the last few months, but I think what we’re gonna have here is an improvement in our system to try to realize that we have to take care of our ecology and that’s the most important thing.”

Shopper Ann Keating, of Fort Erie, Ontario, is used to this. “In Canada, we pay five cents a bag anyway and now we have the option of five cents for a paper bag. I choose the paper bag better or I bring my own bags to the grocery store, so I’m okay with it.”

New York residents go through about 23 million of these plastic bags each year. Wegmans already eliminated them from their Corning and Ithaca stores last July as part of a pilot program, according to Mehaffy. “It’s really been positive actually. Across our company, about 20% of our customers already use reusable bags. In those two stores where we have the pilot, that is actually flip-flopped, so now 80% of the customers in those two stores are using reusable, which is great.”

“They’re probably easier to carry and they stand up straight, and I think they’re actually better,” said Wayne Fraccica of Angola.

At stores where the county or municipality choose not to institute a 5-cent fee for paper bags, Wegmans will charge 5 cent per bag. The amount collected will be donated to the local food bank in each region.

“By adding a charge for each paper bag, our hope it to incentizive the adoption of reusable bags, and in time, achieve our goal of eliminating all single-use bags,” Wegmans packaging and sustainability manager Jason Wadsworth in a statement.

“On average today, 20% of the bags used across all Wegmans stores are reusable. However, at our pilot stores in Corning and Ithaca, we’ve flipped that statistic so that only 20% of the bags used are single-use bags.”

MORE: Wegmans testing plastic bag ban at Ithaca and Corning locations

Wegmans first introduced reusable bags in 2007. According to a statement, Wegmans issued a company wide survey of its customers and found that 95% already own at least one reusable bag and 87% have three or more.

As for Tops Markets, they plan to continue offering plastic bags until the ban takes effect.

“Tops plans to continue to stay the course and follow the proposed law of March 1, 2020.  This will allow our shoppers time to make any necessary adjustments.  As it stands today our shoppers have a wide selection of bags to choose from including our reusable bags and our Tops Totes for Change bags where a portion of the proceeds go back to local charities in the community.  When the law goes into effect in March we will continue to offer our customers paper bag options for five cents with a portion of the proceeds going back to local charities that are in alignment with our mission of  eradicating hunger and improving the lives of children,” said Kathy Sautter Romanowski, Public and Media Relations Manager for Tops Markets. 

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