Just in time for Earth Day, Wegmans Food Markets announced a new emphasis on sustainable packaging, which will reduce the amount of virgin materials – new plastic or paper made from non-renewable fossil fuels – and replace it with mineral fibers, and renewable and recycled materials. The Rochester, N.Y.-based chain also is committed to avoiding excess packaging and removing BPA and other potentially harmful materials, like polystyrene and PVC, where possible and where alternatives exist.
“It’s always important to remember that a food container’s number one job is to protect the food inside. It takes resources to grow that food, and fuel to bring it from the farm to the store, so we want to preserve nature’s investment in this food with containers that protect it all the way to your table,” said Jason Wadsworth, manager of sustainability for Wegmans. “Our job is to make sure packaging is functional, performs as expected, and uses materials efficiently and responsibly. That leaves plenty of opportunity for exploring ways to make packaging more sustainable.”
The company has been committed to sustainability for several years, and since 2015, it has saved more than 6 million pounds of virgin plastic resin by using mineral fibers, renewable materials and adding recycled material into its packaging. The goal for this year is to reduce another half million pounds of packaging materials. Wadsworth noted that the changes may not always be easy for customers to see, but Wegmans’ 92 stores have introduced several of the more sustainable packages this spring.
Packaging innovations using recycled content:
- Wegmans’ front-end plastic bags contain 40 percent post-consumer recycled content, all of which is generated by customers returning their plastic bags to the store. In 2016, Wegmans’ recycling rate for plastic bags averaged around 50 percent.
- Various plastic trays and containers are made from recycled plastic, such as our fresh-cut veggie trays, made from 50 percent recycled plastic material.
- The paper “boats” used for product samples and the donut and cake boxes contain 100 percent recycled content.
Packaging innovations using less plastic:
- Wegmans recently introduced a new produce bag made from 100 percent plant-based renewable materials, not fossil fuels. During the manufacturing process, the use of plant-based materials means less CO2 is emitted, and unlike other renewable plastics, the new produce bags can be recycled in the same way as traditional plastic bags, by placing them in the plastic recycling depositories located in the vestibules of each Wegmans.
- Wegmans Organic Beef vacuum-sealed packaging is currently made from 50 percent plant-based renewable material, not fossil fuels and will be going to 70 percent plant-based this year.
- By switching to a bag from the plastic domes, each rotisserie chicken pouch uses 75 percent less plastic. In addition to being better for the environment, the bags offer an easy-carry handle, re-sealable zipper, and are leak resistant, microwave safe, and easy to store.
- In the Market Café, the self-serve food bar containers use 40 percent less plastic, as do the Choose Your Meal and pre-packaged Asian bowl containers in prepared foods.