ROCHESTER, NY (WROC) – Starting almost 3 years ago now, many grocery stores in New York State were no longer allowed to distribute plastic bags to customers in an effort to reduce plastic waste. With Wegmans being one of the major grocery stores locally affected by this, there has in fact seen a change in the way plastic is being used and recycled now.
Jason Wadsworth, Category Merchant for Packing, Energy, Sustainability at Wegmans says, “It’s gone a lot better than a lot of us expected, people have adopted the reuse mentality…”
Since the ban on plastic bags began on March 1st of 2020, many local grocery stores such as Wegmans were required by law to adapt to these changes by encouraging customers to use reusable bags, or purchase a paper bag for five cents instead. Jason told me that by the end of 2020, stores went from a 20% reuse and 80% plastic rate, to completely flipping those numbers around as a result of this change.
“That’s very similar today and we’re maybe about 85% reuse, and the rest is paper so it’s worked out very well for our customers and they have been very consistent with that,” Jason says.
While we’re also seeing the number of plastic bags like this being recycled at stores like Wegmans go down as more of them cease to exist it can be tough to put a number on just how much less plastic is being cycled through the waste stream. Plus, it goes beyond more than the plastic being used to carry our groceries.
“…there is definitely over packaging that’s out there, there’s single use packaging that we’re looking at, converting plastic into more sustainable options, eliminating straws and stir sticks and converting egg cartons from styrofoam over to fiber,” says Jason.
The different types of plastics such as number 2 or number 4 plastics found in your shampoo and water bottles are still out there, but are accepted for recycling at many local retailers. While this was a huge change to implement at the time, the ban of plastic grocery bags was just a small step in the fight to reduce plastic with so much more left to be done. Reporting in Rochester, Christine Gregory, News 8.
Since 2020 Wegmans has a goal of reducing about 10 million pounds of plastic packing by 2024, and are still accepting various plastics in the bins found at their stores.