ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) — Wegmans will eliminate single-use plastic grocery bags at its New York state stores by year’s end — just before a state ban on the packing takes effect, the grocery store chain announced Monday.
The Rochester, New York-based grocery chain also said it will work to reduce the usage of single-use bags, straws and other plastic items at its stores in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Virginia, Maryland and Massachusetts.
“We’re taking measurable steps to improve and implement programs that increase our recycling rate, minimize waste, and help make a difference in every community we serve,” Jason Wadsworth, the company’s packaging and sustainability manager, said in a statement accompanying the company’s Earth Day announcement.
All grocers in New York state will have to eliminate the ubiquitous plastic shopping bag when the state’s new ban takes effect in March. California and Hawaii already ban the items, which are a major source of plastic pollution on land and in water.
Lawmakers approved the ban earlier this month as part of a new state budget. Under the new law, local counties will have the option of imposing a 5-cent fee on paper bags, with 3 cents going to the state’s Environmental Protection Fund and 2 cents kept by local governments.
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, a Democrat, touted the ban he helped pass during a speech Monday on Long Island.
He said going without plastic bags will be a “minor inconvenience” compared to the devastating impact of plastic pollution. State figures estimate that New Yorkers now use 23 billion single-use plastic bags each year.
“By 2050, there will be more plastic by weight in the oceans than fish,” Cuomo said. “You would have to be blind not to see what’s going on with our environment.”