A bag ban is all part of the brand at Wegmans

Discussion
Photo: Getty Images/helen89
Sep 29, 2022

No matter which Wegmans a customer is shopping at in the U.S., they will not find single-use plastic bags available at checkout.

Wegmans eliminated the use of single-use plastic bags in its Pennsylvania stores on September 22, according to a press release. Pennsylvania was the last state in which Wegmans still had plastic bags available at checkout. With this move, the grocery chain has met its goal of eliminating single-use plastic bags in all stores by the end of 2022.  The chain also intends to reduce single-use plastic packaging and plastics made from fossil fuels used in-store by 10 million pounds by 2024.

While retailers such as Aldi have similarly promoted reusable bags, and others like Walmart and Kroger have taken steps to reduce single-use plastics in other ways, much of the movement against single-use plastic grocery bags in the past few years has happened at the legislative level.

In the years immediately preceding the pandemic, plastic bag bans at the state and municipal level were becoming more commonly discussed, piloted and implemented throughout the U.S. as a way to reduce both environmental impact and visible litter.

But in March of 2020, when the pandemic struck, many states and cities temporarily suspended their plastic bag bans. There was a perception that reusable bags would slow the checkout process and keep people in stores longer, increasing the possibility of COVID-19 transmission, and concerns over reusable bags being a possible source of viral transmission. (Experts later established that COVID-19 was not transmitted via contaminated surfaces.)

Throughout late 2020 and 2021, municipalities began reinstating the bans.

Today the state with the most stringent bag ban is running into unforeseen consequences.

New Jersey legislators are considering amending the bag ban to allow single-use paper bags — not plastic — for e-grocery delivery, according to NJ.com. Since grocery delivery services have had to use reusable bags for each order to comply with the law, customers have complained of accumulating tens or even hundreds of bags. And though they are reusable, they are not necessarily easily recycled.

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: Does Wegmans’ chainwide ban on single-use plastic bags make business sense for the grocer? Are there other grocers that you expect to follow suit as a matter of company policy and not an act of compliance with local or state laws?

Please practice The RetailWire Golden Rule when submitting your comments.
Braintrust
"This a good move with multiple positive potential results."
"New Jersey resident here. I’ve been very surprised, even impressed, at how quickly my fellow New Jerseyans have adapted to bringing their own bags to stores."
"By banning all single-use plastic bags, Wegmans is providing leadership and environmental awareness in their communities."

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25 Comments on "A bag ban is all part of the brand at Wegmans"


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Mark Ryski
BrainTrust

Banning single-use plastic makes sense for the environment – and that’s good for business. The world is full of single-use plastic that is doing damage to ecosystems around the world. Every effort that helps reduce the environmental impact can help, and this initiative will also. Ultimately, I expect single-use plastic to be legislated away permanently, however cost-effective alternatives still need to be developed.

Bob Amster
BrainTrust

We see more awareness about humans’ negative impact on the environment and many businesses reacting to become more responsible and to keep pace with younger generations more concerned with improving the environment. This a good move with multiple positive potential results.

Jenn McMillen
BrainTrust

Admit it. Sometimes it’s a pain in the butt when plastic bags are unavailable. I’m for eliminating plastic bags, but there should be a pay-for option if you’re caught out sans reusable bag.

Zel Bianco
BrainTrust

Yes, it makes total sense. We all need to chip in and take a stand. The amount of waste that plastic bags create each and every day is just horrible. Requiring us all to bring our own reusable bags to shop is not asking too much. We all need to do more not just at the grocery store but everywhere we shop. Whether for lunch or anywhere else we shop, plastic bags and containers should be phased out and we should encourage businesses to join the ban.

Neil Saunders
BrainTrust

The Wegmans we shop at offer paper bags, which are more than adequate. The only issue is that if you intend to carry them, rather than take them in your cart to the car, you need to double bag as the handles quickly break. This is also a big issue at Whole Foods. So while it is good to see plastic eliminated, it would also be good to make bags that actually work properly!

Mohamed Amer, PhD
BrainTrust

In California, single-use plastic bags have been banned since 2016 when voters approved Proposition 67. Reusable bags are popular, multipurpose, and inexpensive. Look at the Trader Joe’s bags used by shoppers at other grocers. It’s the right thing to do for the environment and will reflect positively on the grocery chain, and it can be great advertising.

storewanderer
Guest
1 month 27 days ago

Let’s be honest about what is happening in California.

The thin plastic bags are ONLY banned at grocery stores, drug stores, and other stores with a liquor license. The CA plastic bag ban does not impact department, pet, home improvement, restaurants, or any mall stores.

The largest grocery chains subject to the ban, as well as two of the drugstore chains, plus Target and Walmart, sell for 10 cents super thick plastic bags that look just like the old thin t-shirt bags. Since COVID, the majority of customers are receiving brand new super thick plastic bags every time they shop, using them once, then throwing them away. There is more plastic waste than ever.

They would have been better off keeping the thin bags and attaching a fee similar to what has been done in Denver, Chicago, Washington DC, Minneapolis…

Mohamed Amer, PhD
BrainTrust

In December, 2021, the California Statewide Commission on Recycling Markets and Curbside Recycling asked the California attorney general and regulator CalRecycle to crack down on retailers violating the plastic bag law and undermining the state’s efforts to tackle plastic pollution. “A compromise provision in the measure [SB67] allowed retailers to sell reusable plastic bags for a minimum of 10 cents each. The legislation also states the bags must be capable of being recycled in California.”

storewanderer
Guest
1 month 27 days ago
Yes, and this is what the high store count chains in California do. The old thin bags are 0.50 ml plastic thickness (some less). Those California super thick t-shirt bags are 2.25 ml plastic thickness are the standard bag offer at California Safeway, Ralphs, Target, Walmart, Walgreens, Rite Aid. Also secondary chains like Dollar Tree, Dollar General, Big Lots, etc. use those super thick 2.25 ml plastic thickness t-shirt bags. Many do not even offer paper bags (unless a local regulation requires it). I have noticed high reusable bag use in stores like Whole Foods in wealthy places like Marin County or San Francisco in California, but go to other areas and usual stores like Safeway or Walmart and the majority of customers buy the 2.25 ml thick bags; Sacramento, San Diego, Orange County, Central Valley, and all rural areas. It is even worse in Oregon the same thing is happening there but the super thick plastic bag has to be 4ml thickness and the law there applies to ALL retailers. So Wegmans offering all… Read more »
Richard J. George, Ph.D.
BrainTrust

It makes terrific sense for the Wegmans brand. Wegmans follows the directive to “think like a brand but act like a retailer.” This latest move reinforces the customer- and environmentally-friendly image of Wegmans. Plus, it is Wegmans’ decision. It would be terrific if more retailers followed their customers and their principles on issues like this, instead of waiting for and even fighting government mandates. The issue is to do what is right!

Georganne Bender
BrainTrust

The ban on single use plastic bags is on brand for Wegmans. The retailer is always ahead of the curve in its customer offerings, and customers respond favorably.

I have noticed that recently I am being offered paper bags in places that used to utilize plastic. And I have to admit that I am still slightly shocked when told I cannot have a bag when making a purchase, but it is something I am beginning to anticipate, even while traveling.

David Spear
BrainTrust

Absolutely right move by Wegmans. Kudos to them. We use the reusable Trader Joe’s bags and they’re fantastic. In fact, we use them to carry food items and beverages over to friends’ homes for parties. I don’t think it’s too much to ask of consumers to be “bag conscious.” It’s easy to put them immediately back in your car after you’re finished emptying them in your kitchen.

Mark Ryski
BrainTrust

Well put, David. Consumers do need to be “bag conscious” — minor inconveniences or changing our behaviors is a small price to pay. We all must do our part.

Ron Margulis
BrainTrust

New Jersey resident here. I’ve been very surprised, even impressed, at how quickly my fellow New Jerseyans have adapted to bringing their own bags to stores. And not just supermarkets. I see shoppers with reusable bags at Home Depot, Wawa, even Best Buy. Obviously Wegmans has already stopped providing single-use plastic bags here. Also obviously, they have seen how the elimination of the single-use bags has transpired here and determined there is little to no expected negative impact for them as they expand the effort to the rest of their market area.

Ken Lonyai
BrainTrust
HYPOCRITES! First, Wegmans has a huge presence in NJ. This year NJ banned single use bags, paper or plastic, Styrofoam take-out food packaging, and maybe a couple of other things. Some stores like Home Depot skirt the rules with paper bags anyway. Smaller stores are allowed to still offer bags as if those bags don’t pollute or fill landfills. So Wegmans’ positioning as being thoughtful and environmentally-focused is somewhat disingenuous given that they have to stop ALL bags in NJ. They are hypocrites because until that point they were the worst offender of plastic bag overuse. It was uncomfortable to watch every cashier massively overbag, often putting one or two lightweight items in a bag — yes, it was true. We reuse then recycle plastic bags, so for us they weren’t going to waste, but most shoppers probably threw them away upon returning home. So what’s the sudden epiphany Wegmans? A chance to save a little money? Greenwashing? Both? And BTW – now in NJ, after scanning items, most cashiers talk to one another or… Read more »
George Anderson
Staff

I don’t have anything to show from Wegmans but here’s just a small sample of the reusable bags we’ve collected placing curbside pickup orders at Whole Foods and Drive Up orders at Target since the plastic bag ban went into effect in New Jersey.

The dog was not part of any of those transactions but insisted on being in the shot anyway.

Kathleen Fischer
BrainTrust

It makes business sense for the grocer because it makes sense for the environment. We need further banning of single-use plastic bags and consumer education to promote the use of reusable bags. The convenience of plastic bags is not worth the destruction they cause to the environment.

storewanderer
Guest
1 month 27 days ago
Wegmans has made the decision to offer paper bags only chain wide with a 5 cent bag fee as chain policy. Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s made that decision years ago (Trader Joe’s started using plastic again during COVID), but charge no fee unless required by local rules. So this isn’t exactly revolutionary. The bag fee is poor form and low end, but customers will likely accept it and not care. Folks who think eliminating thin efficient plastic bags is such a good idea need to look at basically everything they buy in the store that is packaged in plastic … frankly, folks are focusing on the wrong plastic to eliminate. The thin bags are such a tiny portion of the plastic waste, they are almost meaningless, a fraction of a percent. Those reusable bags imported from China are also made of plastic, and need to be used hundreds or thousands of times to benefit the environment vs. the old thin bags. This also doesn’t measure the environment consequences of water and chemical use to… Read more »
Brad Halverson
Guest

Your last paragraph speaks to topics I’ve heard brought up by bag suppliers and manufacturers to grocers behind the scenes, but often doesn’t get told to customers; the general public. It would serve everyone well if there was more light shed on this (not funded by government or organizations benefitting from preferred outcomes) topic of net-net outcomes, whatever the trade-offs are.

storewanderer
Guest
1 month 27 days ago
The general public gets told the thin bags are bad for the environment, don’t even know why or how, and that is it. They are presented with a super thick plastic bag or a reusable bag also made of plastic that is imported from China that needs to be cleaned regularly and told that is better for the environment, but not how or why, and run with it. The industry already figured this out. The thin bag was and still is the lowest cost, most efficient, and by default has the least environmental impact of other options. The NJ situation with too many reusable bags is more common than is known. I have quite a few of them sitting around I’ve received at events, conferences, etc. too. Some are too small to be any use for grocery shopping. Useful to carry around a coat or something. Simply putting a fee on the thin bag to curve overuse and stop the automatic bagging of one item purchases would have worked wonders. Instead now we have alternatives… Read more »
John Karolefski
BrainTrust

By banning all single-use plastic bags, Wegmans is providing leadership and environmental awareness in their communities. Other grocers, such as Giant Eagle in Cleveland, have already banned plastic bags. Shoppers at first didn’t like toting reusable bags to the store, but they got used to it. At the end of the day, the big winner is the environment.

storewanderer
Guest
1 month 27 days ago

Giant Eagle in Cleveland eliminated plastic bags as they were responding to a county wide plastic bag ban that passed in like 2018 and has not really been enforced. Multiple cities representing the majority of the county population opted to NOT participate in that plastic bag ban. Giant Eagle symbolically on April 22, 2022, Earth Day, opted to symbolically move forward banning plastic bags in that market.

Giant Eagle is assessing a 10 cent paper bag fee, though the county ban does not require any such fee.

Brad Halverson
Guest

This makes good business sense especially if Wegmans’ customers are largely supportive. Government action is one thing, but since Wegmans is deciding for customers, we can assume they are are aligned on this issue. Ultimately, the brand needs to be in lock-step with company values and customer buy in. They will need to be the ones who embrace cleaning their own reusable bags, use double bagged paper (if available), and know that supply costs may be reflected in retail price increases. A good decision for the business and brand if customers agree.

Shep Hyken
BrainTrust

There is a segment of the consumer population that will rally behind a company that believes in sustainability. Another segment of consumers will go along, but don’t have the same passion. Then another segment will be frustrated with a decision like this one. For that third group, they have (or should have) reusable bags for purchase. Eliminating plastic bags is not new. It just hasn’t hit the “tipping point” where it is broadly accepted as a way of doing business at the local grocery store.

Suzanne331
Guest

Grocery retail has discussed this for years, and finally it is a reality. It makes sense for the environment, the brand and it looks ahead at what is coming (hopefully) for single use plastics in retail.

wpDiscuz
Braintrust
"This a good move with multiple positive potential results."
"New Jersey resident here. I’ve been very surprised, even impressed, at how quickly my fellow New Jerseyans have adapted to bringing their own bags to stores."
"By banning all single-use plastic bags, Wegmans is providing leadership and environmental awareness in their communities."

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