BALTIMORE (WJZ) — Wegmans, the Rochester, N.Y.-based gourmet grocery store chain with eight locations in Maryland, said Thursday it plans to phase out plastic bags in all its stores.

To incentivize reusable bags, the company will charge 5 cents per paper bag and donate the fee to a local store’s area food bank or United Way branch.

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Sixty-one of the company’s 106 stores have already eliminated singe-use plastic bags, including select locations in Maryland, the company said.

“We understand shoppers are accustomed to receiving plastic bags at checkout and losing that option requires a significant change. We are here to help our customers with this transition as we focus on doing what’s right for the environment,” said Jason Wadsworth, Wegmans category merchant for packaging, energy, and sustainability. “As we’ve encountered plastic bag legislation in numerous markets, we’ve learned there’s more we can do, and a bigger impact we can make, together with our customers.”

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In 2019, Wegmans launched pilot programs to remove plastic bags in three stores –two in New York and one in Virginia — ahead of a ban in its home state. All plastic bags were removed from New York stores in January 2020, several months ahead of the statewide ban.

According to the company, only 20-25% of transactions in stores where single-use plastic bags have been removed involve paper bags, with the remaining 75-80% of customers using reusable bags.

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Wegmans has pledged to reducing in-store plastic packaging and other single-use plastics by 10 million pounds by 2024.

CBS Baltimore Staff