You will need to start bringing reusable bags while shopping at the two Richmond-area Wegmans stores.
The Rochester, N.Y.-based grocery chain said it will stop using plastic bags for customers only at its two stores in Henrico and Chesterfield counties starting Oct. 21. The stores will still offer paper bags, but they will cost 5 cents per bag.
The changes, part of a test the chain is conducting here, are part of a goal Weg-mans has to shift customers into using reusable bags as the best option to “solve environmental challenges” that plastic bags cause.
“If, together, we can make that happen, it will have an immeasurable environmental impact for decades to come,” the chain said.
“We’ve always understood the need to reduce single-use grocery bags. In markets where we’re facing plastic bag bans, we’ve seen the impact the ban, or the impending ban, has on shifting customers to reusable bags,” said Jason Wadsworth, Wegmans packaging and sustainability manager. “We’ve learned a lot from our employees and customers in these markets, who have really embraced the change.”
The chain said it is testing the plastic bag ban at its two Richmond-area stores to learn how Wegmans can help customers make the switch when a change in the law isn’t the driving factor.
Plastic bags are the No. 1 choice of customers at checkout, the company said. It operates 100 stores in New York, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Virginia, Maryland, Massachusetts and North Carolina.
“So by removing plastic bags as an option, we eliminate a significant portion of single-use [plastic] bags at Wegmans,” Wadsworth said. “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.”
The money collected from the 5-cent paper-bag charge will be donated to local hunger relief agency Feed More.
A recent survey Wegmans conducted of customers in the Richmond region found that 90% of respondents said plastic grocery bags are bad for the environment while 74% think reusable bags are more convenient.
Wegmans opened its two Richmond-area stores in 2016: a 120,000-square-foot store in the West Broad Marketplace shopping center in western Henrico County and a 115,000-square-foot store off Midlothian Turnpike in Chesterfield County.
Wegmans introduced reusable bags at its stores in 2007. It said a recent survey of Wegmans customers at all of its stores found that 95% already own at least one reusable bag and 87% have three or more.
Like many retailers, Weg-mans is facing state and local laws banning the use of plastic bags or having to charge customers to use them and paper bags.
Four of the chain’s stores in Massachusetts operate under municipal bans on the use of plastic bags.
Its store in Germantown, Md., is required by law to charge a 5-cent fee for paper and plastic bags. The chain said about 65% of bags used at that store are reusable compared to a 20% average across all of its stores.
Starting in March, Wegmans’ 47 stores in New York will have to comply with that state’s plastic bag ban.
Wegmans also is trying to eliminate plastic packaging it uses along with other single-use plastics, such as straws. Wegmans announced this year that it will reduce plastic use by 2 million pounds in 2019, with a goal of a 10-million-pound reduction by 2024.
The plastic bag ban at Wegmans comes as Kroger Co., the nation’s largest traditional supermarket, announced in August 2018 plans to phase out single-use plastic bags by 2025 at all of its locations. Kroger operates stores under the Kroger, Harris Teeter, Ralphs, Dillons, Smith’s, King Soopers, Fry’s, QFC and other banners.
The phaseout began in April with Seattle-based QFC stores, which was the company’s first retail division to discontinue plastic bags.
No date has been set for when Kroger’s 18 stores in the Richmond region will make the switch, a company spokeswoman said Monday.
Other major corporations also are trying to reduce plastic use. For instance, Disney, Starbucks, Marriott and McDonald’s are getting rid of plastic straws.