ROCHESTER, N.Y. — On the heels of New York announcing a coming ban on single-use plastic bags, Wegmans has announced it will get ahead of the state’s ban by a few months and eliminate plastic grocery bags by the end of the year.

New York’s ban on plastic bags, which was recently announced as part of the state budget, will officially go into effect in March 2020. However, Wegmans stores in New York are planning to be a few months ahead of the curve.

“By the end of this year, we will eliminate the use of plastic grocery bags in our New York State stores,” Jason Wadsworth, Wegmans packaging and sustainability manager, said in a news release. “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 grocery chain also announced Monday, on Earth Day, that it is aiming to reduce in-store plastic packaging made from fossil fuels and single-use plastics like straws by 2 million pounds in 2019, with a goal of reducing 10 million pounds by 2024. Eliminating plastic bags in New York will not be counted toward the larger plastic-reduction commitment for 2019 or 2024, the company said in a news release.

On the local level, Tompkins County has been considering banning plastic bags for several years and many cities across the country have already instituted their own bans. The non-biodegradable bags create a lot of waste in the U.S. A state report on plastic bags published in 2018 found that the average family uses 1,500 single-use plastic bags a year for an average of 12 minutes each.

For a more detailed report on the ban in New York and what it means locally, read our recent report here.

Kelsey O'Connor

Kelsey O'Connor is the managing editor for the Ithaca Voice. Questions? Story tips? Contact her at koconnor@ithacavoice.com and follow her on Twitter @bykelseyoconnor.