Wegmans announced its commitment to reduce in-store plastic packaging made from fossil fuels, along with other single-use plastics, like straws, by 2 million pounds in 2019, with a goal of a 10-million-pound reduction by 2024.
In large part, Wegmans will achieve this by eliminating some current plastic packaging and replacing it with materials made from plant-based renewable fiber. Wegmans will also continue to work closely with The Center for Sustainable Packaging at Rochester Institute of Technology to identify new opportunities and packaging innovations.
Wegmans has already made progress towards its 2019 goal. In the first quarter, the company made the switch from plastic straws and drink stir sticks to renewable fiber alternatives at all its stores and corporate worksites.
The focus on sustainable packaging is part of the company’s Zero Waste program, an initiative aimed at eliminating all forms of waste at its stores. The program started as a one-year pilot at the company’s Canandaigua, New York store in 2016, and has since been rolled out to a total of 30 stores, with more slated for the future.
“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,” said 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.”
Reducing Plastic Packaging Since 2015
“Since putting a major focus on sustainable packaging in 2015, we’ve made great progress and have picked up a good deal of momentum,” said Wadsworth. “But with the aggressive goal we’ve set, momentum alone isn’t enough. We need to kick it into high gear.”
Here are just a few examples of how Wegmans has already reduced plastic throughout its stores:
· food bar containers that use 40% less plastic and are recyclable
· donut and Celebration Cake boxes made from 100% recycled paper content
· produce bags made from 100% plant-based renewable materials
· rotisserie chicken pouches that use 75 percent less plastic than the previously used plastic domes
The Shift to Reusable Bags
Wegmans has long understood the need to reduce single-use grocery bags.
Since the introduction of reusable bags in 2007, the company has put an emphasis on educating customers of their benefits. Not only are they the best option for the environment, but they also hold more groceries without breaking or tearing, requiring fewer bags per shopping trip than paper or plastic bags.
In New York State only, Wegmans plans to eliminate the use of plastic grocery bags in advance of the state ban that 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,” said 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.
Source: Company Press Release