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Wegmans, With New Store In Area Near Opening, Phasing Out Single-Use Plastic Bags In NY

Wegmans is phasing out single-use plastic bags in its New York Stores.
Wegmans is phasing out single-use plastic bags in its New York Stores. Photo Credit: Contributed

Have your reusable grocery bags ready?

With a new store set to open in the area over the summer, Wegmans announced that the company is planning to phase out single-use plastic grocery bags in all its New York stores as of Monday, Jan .27.

The grocery store giant announced on Monday, Jan. 6, that ahead of a planned statewide ban on single-use bags that takes effect in March, they will begin encouraging customers to use reusable bags.

Paper bags will still be available for a five-cent fee, with sales being donated to local food banks.

“By adding a charge for each paper bag, our hope is to incentivize the adoption of reusable bags, and in time, achieve our goal of eliminating all single-use bags,” Jason Wadsworth, Wegmans packaging and sustainability manager, said in a statement. “This approach has proven successful at our two-store pilot. On average today, 20 percent 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 percent of the bags used are single-use bags.”

Officials said that consumers use billions of plastic bags annually, which do not biodegrade, creating massive amounts of litter in neighborhoods and waterways and posing a threat to the health of area residents and the environment. The ban is expected to reduce greenhouse gas emissions associated with plastic bag production and disposal.

"You see plastic bags hanging in trees, blowing down the streets, in landfills, and in our waterways, and there is no doubt they are doing tremendous damage," New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo stated. "Twelve million barrels of oil are used to make the plastic bags we use every year and by 2050 there will be more plastic by weight in the oceans than fish. We need to stop using plastic bags, and today we're putting an end to this blight on our environment.”

According to the United Nations Environment Programme, single-use plastic bags are one of the top five single-use plastics found in the environment by magnitude, and they are one of the top five items encountered in coastline clean-ups.

Between 500 billion and one trillion plastic bags are consumed worldwide each year, according to the United States Environmental Protection Agency. Less than 1 percent of plastic bags are recycled in the United States and they are not acceptable at certain recycling centers.

The EPA estimates that 80 percent of plastic pollution in the ocean originated on land, which includes plastic bags, and in New York, residents use 23 billion plastic bags annually, which contributes to pollution both on and off land. These bags do not biodegrade and they persist for years.

Plastic pollution has become a serious threat to our lakes, rivers and marine environment as well as public health. Scientists are finding plastic pollution in shellfish and finfish, making its way to our dinner plates,” Citizens Campaign for the Environment Executive Director Adrienne Esposito said. “Giving up plastic bags and using reusable bags is one easy, reasonable step each member of the public can take to help combat the plastic pollution epidemic. It is time for everyone to get on the plastic bag 'ban wagon.”

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