Wegmans is working toward a 10-million-pound reduction in single-use plastics across its store footprint by 2024
Wegmans Food Markets has committed to reduce in-store plastic packaging made from fossil fuels, as well as other single-use plastics such as straws, by 2 million pounds in 2019, with a goal of a 10-million-pound reduction by 2024.
To a large extent, Rochester, N.Y.-based Wegmans will attain this goal by eliminating some current plastic packaging and replacing it with materials made from plant-based renewable fiber. The grocer will also continue to work closely with The Center for Sustainable Packaging at Rochester Institute of Technology to find new opportunities and packaging innovations.
Wegmans has already made progress toward its 2019 goal: In the first quarter, the retailer transitioned from plastic straws and drink stir sticks to renewable-fiber alternatives at all of its stores and corporate worksites.
These actions are in keeping with the company’s Zero Waste program, an initiative to eliminate all forms of waste at its stores. The program began as a year-long pilot at Wegmans’ Canandaigua, N.Y., store in 2016, and has since expanded to a total of 30 stores, with more scheduled to take part.
“We’re taking measurable steps to improve and implement programs that increase our recycling rate, minimize waste and help make a difference in every community we serve,” noted Jason Wadsworth, Wegmans packaging and sustainability manager. “One area we’re paying particular attention to is packaging. We need to ensure packaging is functional and performs as expected, which is key to reducing food waste. But it must also use materials efficiently and responsibly, and be recyclable whenever possible.”
Wegmans has already reduced plastic at its stores by providing food bar containers that use 40 percent less plastic and are recyclable, doughnut and celebration cake boxes made from 100 percent recycled paper content, produce bags made from 100 percent plant-based renewable materials, and rotisserie chicken pouches that use 75 percent less plastic than the phased-out plastic domes.
Further, the grocer plans to stop offering single-use plastic grocery bags at its New York stores before a state-wide ban takes effect on March 1, 2020.
“By the end of this year, we will eliminate the use of plastic grocery bags in our New York state stores,” noted Wadsworth. “We want to get out ahead of this because we have a lot to learn from our customers about how we can help them make the shift to reusable bags, which are far better than paper bags for the environment.”
The elimination of plastic bags in New York state will not be counted toward the company’s plastic-reduction commitment for 2019 or its 2024 goal, however.
Other food retailers committed to reducing their plastic packaging include Ahold Delhaize, Aldi, PCC Community Markets and Walmart, while Big Y, Kroger and Natural Grocers are among those phasing out single-use plastic bags.
Family-owned Wegmans operates 98 stores in New York, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Virginia, Maryland, and Massachusetts. The company is No. 14 on Progressive Grocer’s 2018 Super 50 list of the top grocers in the United States.