Wegmans removed plastic bags from its stores beginning Jan. 27, more than a month ahead of the March 1 statewide ban. Ontario County announced last week it is giving away thousands of reusable bags through 13 food pantries.

CANANDAIGUA — To help residents prepare for the ban on plastic grocery bags that starts March 1, Ontario County will give away thousands of reusable bags through 13 area food pantries.

“Residents who visit the pantries starting in February will receive a free Ontario County Recycles bag,” said Carla Jordan, the county’s director of the Department of Sustainability & Solid Waste Management. “Many residents have anticipated the change and already adapted their shopping habits. For those who haven’t, we’re trying to make the transition as pain free as possible, and the distribution of reusable bags is one way the county can help.”

The new state law includes exceptions to the ban for garbage, garment, restaurant takeout, prescription drugs, newspapers, and sliced deli items.

Jordan said 100 billion plastic bags are used annually in the United States. The ban is aimed at cutting back on the pollution caused by bag production and to reduce the amount of plastic waste that ends up in landfills.

“Residents don’t often see the long-term effect plastic bag waste has on our environment,” County Administrator Mary Krause said. “While the bag ban may seem like a nuisance to some, it will have a tremendous impact on waste reduction efforts locally and across the state.”

For more information about the ban and other recycling-related questions, people can visit ontariocountyrecycles.org or call (585) 393-3090.

Wegmans outlets, including the one in Geneva, did away with plastic bags beginning Jan. 27. Shoppers there can buy paper bags for 5 cents apiece; bring their own reusable bags; or buy reusable bags from Wegmans for 99 cents apiece.

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