DECEMBER 17, 2019, PITTSBURGH – Each year, Americans use 14 billion plastic shopping bags. Ninety nine percent of those bags either go to the landfill or litter the environment, creating a serious problem throughout the country and around the world. Today, Giant Eagle announced its commitment to be a leader in identifying solutions for this – and other – environmental issues.
Giant Eagle is launching a strategic sustainability platform focused on achieving significant milestones related to:
- Carbon Emissions
- More Sustainable Products
- Team Member Engagement
The company will announce specific goals related to these focus areas throughout the coming months, starting today with Giant Eagle’s target to be free of single-use plastics in its operations by 2025. During this time, Giant Eagle will commence work to move away from single-use plastics in areas such as plastic bags, straws, single serve fresh food containers, bottled beverages and more.
As an initial demonstration of this vision, Giant Eagle is committed to eliminate single-use plastic bags from all stores, and is launching separate plastic bag pilot programs this January in three markets: Pittsburgh, Cuyahoga County in Ohio and Bexley, Ohio (a suburb of Columbus) in support of its pledge.
Giant Eagle is launching the Pittsburgh pilot program at the Waterworks Market District in partnership with Allegheny County, the City of Pittsburgh and Sustainable Pittsburgh. For six months, beginning Wednesday, January 15, 2020, the store will remove single-use plastic bags at its registers. In place of single-use plastic bags, the store will:
- Encourage the use of reusable bags, with a limited time “one perk per reusable bag used” promotion. This perk will be available for a limited time at all Giant Eagle supermarkets chainwide, starting today, December 17.
- All Giant Eagle supermarkets will also make high quality reusable bags available for purchase at $0.99 each.
- To further strengthen the usage of reusable bags, the Waterworks Market District will charge a 10-cent fee per paper bag used, ensuring that paper bags continue to be available for interested customers. Paper bags are biodegradable and recyclable, but also have a high environmental cost in terms of water and energy used in their manufacture. Importantly, customers paying with forms of government funded food purchase assistance (SNAP, WIC etc.) will be exempt from the paper bag fee.
“When my great-grandfather and the four other founders started Giant Eagle nearly 90 years ago, they wanted to improve life for people in their communities,” said Giant Eagle CEO and President Laura Shapira Karet. “Protecting our planet for future generations is a critical way we uphold this commitment today.”
This unique collaborative effort was encouraged by Pennsylvania legislation passed earlier this year that put in place a one-year moratorium on plastic bag bans so that the environmental and economic impacts of such ordinances could be vetted.
“Consumers have power, and this move invites every shopper to have a positive impact,” said Joylette Portlock, Ph.D., Executive Director of Sustainable Pittsburgh. “Giant Eagle is demonstrating leadership in identifying solutions for how to reduce plastic waste here in the Pittsburgh region, and is considering the right factors during this pilot. We also applaud and support the company’s larger sustainability commitment to our community.”
County Executive Rich Fitzgerald said, “We are grateful to Laura and her team at Giant Eagle for this commitment to eliminate single use plastic by 2025. We thank the company for its leadership and are thrilled to see so many taking active roles in doing their part to reduce our ecological footprint.”
Allegheny County has contracted with a new recycling hauler that utilizes technology to increase its efforts, resulting in 54.6 tons of cardboard and 8 tons of commingled recycling being diverted in just this year alone. Coupled with the Allegheny County Health Department’s partnerships on Hard-to-Recycle, Household Chemical Collection, and Household Hazardous Waste Collection events, and composting being piloted at several facilities, the County has made significant strides in reducing what enters its waste streams.
Giant Eagle is also committing to phasing out the use of the blue-colored single-use plastic bags in all City of Pittsburgh stores in the coming months. Many Pittsburgh residents have long used the blue bags to gather recyclables at the curb. Unfortunately, the blue bags create mechanical issues for the machinery that sorts the recycled materials. Giant Eagle’s phasing out of its single-use blue plastic bags coincides with the City’s rollout of free recycling bins to all households serviced by the City. “I commend Giant Eagle on their bold pledge to eliminate single use plastic by 2025, a major advancement towards tackling our challenges with litter and recycling quality in Pittsburgh,” said Mayor Bill Peduto. “Strong and strategic partnerships and bold actions, like this, are what will be required to achieve the City’s climate action goals.”
The Waterworks Market District pilot program is being implemented with the endorsement of other notable community leaders including Allegheny CleanWays. Additionally, Giant Eagle has engaged the Wilton E. Scott Institute for Energy Innovation at Carnegie Mellon University to share data and conduct research to understand the impact of the pilot program on the larger community and environment.
Those interested in learning more about Giant Eagle’s sustainability efforts may visit GiantEagle.com/AllOfUs. City of Pittsburgh residents with questions about recycling activities should contact 311.
About Giant Eagle
Giant Eagle, Inc., ranked among the top 40 on Forbes magazine’s largest private corporations list, is one of the nation’s largest food retailers and distributors with approximately $9.2 billion in annual sales. Founded in 1931, Giant Eagle, Inc. has grown to be a leading food, fuel and pharmacy retailer in the region with more than 470 stores throughout western Pennsylvania, north central Ohio, northern West Virginia, Maryland and Indiana.
About Sustainable Pittsburgh
A 501(c)(3) nonprofit, Sustainable Pittsburgh affects decision-making for the Pittsburgh region to integrate economic prosperity, social equity, and environmental quality as the enduring accountability, bringing sustainable solutions for communities and businesses. Sustainable Pittsburgh works with hundreds of organizations in different sectors across southwestern Pennsylvania and the Commonwealth, in order to advance sustainability practice and policy. SustainablePittsburgh.org.