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Wegmans Envisions a Diesel-Free Future

Grocer pivoting toward natural gas tractors
Gina Acosta, Progressive Grocer
Wegmans Envisions a Diesel-Free Future
The grocer says it is exploring new technologies with the ultimate goal of having a fleet that is net carbon zero, or net carbon negative, if possible.

Wegmans Food Markets is moving away from diesel efficiency and toward diesel elimination when it comes to its fleet. 

The company announced it has 16 compressed natural gas (CNG) tractors, with another 49 on order, for its fleet of 175 trucks. The impact of those CNG trucks will change the Wegmans footprint in Rochester, N.Y., from 80% diesel to 80% natural gas. That’s nearly 800,000 gallons of diesel eliminated annually.

The grocer says it is exploring new technologies with the ultimate goal of having a fleet that is net carbon zero, or net carbon negative, if possible.

“With three fully-electric class 8 truck pilots planned for next year, we’re excited about what the future holds, and hopeful that as more and more of these technologies become available, we’ll be able to fit them into our operations,” said Matt Harris, Wegmans sustainability manager for energy and fleet technology.

Last month, the company says it looked at Hyliion’s Hypertruck ERX, its next generation electric powertrain that’s recharged by an onboard natural gas generator and has the potential, through renewable natural gas, to be a net carbon negative vehicle.

Also last month, Wegmans took another step in its sustainability journey by nixing the use of single-use plastic grocery bags in several of its Virginia locations in response to a local ban that goes into effect on Jan. 1. Although the legislation allows retailers to continue to offer plastic bags at a charge of five cents per bag, the retailer is making the move for full elimination.

Instead, customers at Wegmans stores in Fairfax, Alexandria, Tysons and Chantilly, Va., are encouraged to bring in reusable bags. The retailer will offer eco-friendlier paper grocery bags for a five-cent charge per bag, proceeds from which will be donated to community food banks.

This is the latest bagging switch for Wegmans, which has similar approaches in other markets impacted by plastic bag bans. “We’ve always understood the need to reduce single-use grocery bags,” said Jason Wadsworth, packaging, energy, and sustainability merchant for Wegmans. “By eliminating plastic bags and adding a charge for each paper bag, our hope is to incentivize the adoption of reusable bags, an approach that has proven successful for us in New York State and Richmond.”

The diesel and plastic bag moves align with Wegmans’ company-wide sustainability efforts that focus on sustainable packaging, eliminating waste and reducing carbon footprints. 

Family-owned Wegmans operates 106 stores in New York, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Virginia, Maryland and Massachusetts. The Rochester, N.Y.-based company is No. 35 on The PG 100, Progressive Grocer’s 2021 list of the top food and consumables retailers in North America.

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