Giant Eagle takes step to eliminate plastic


Jenna L. Korth

A customer examines reusable bags at Giant Eagle

Marissa Pekular, West Hills Editor

Earlier this month, Giant Eagle started its pilot program to phase out plastic at its Waterworks Market District store and GetGo. At this location, plastic bags are no longer available at the checkout lanes. Instead, paper bags will cost 10 cents, with an exception for customers who pay for their groceries with government assistance. At every location, shoppers are encouraged to bring their own reusable bags, or purchase them from Giant Eagle for 99 cents.

As this is only a pilot program, the Waterworks Giant Eagle and GetGo is one of the first locations to remove plastic bag use from the store. However, customers can expect to see the same policy enacted in some Pittsburgh city stores within the coming months. Two additional Giant Eagle locations in Ohio are also a part of the pilot program to no longer carry the ubiquitous blue plastic bags.

This is the first step in Giant Eagle’s sustainability plan to become completely plastic-free. The company’s goal is to have every store plastic-less by the year 2025. It will commence work to get rid of single-use plastics such as straws, food containers and bottled beverages. For the last four weeks, at all locations, the company has been offering a “one perk per reusable bag used” promotion. The more reusable bags a customer uses; the more fuel perks they will be rewarded.

The success of this initiative is remarkable. A spokesperson remarked this program has eliminated close to 2 million plastic bags in just that short amount of time. Company leaders explained that American use 14 billion plastic bags each year, over 99 percent of which end up in the trash. “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.”

The Waterworks Market District pilot program is highly endorsed and supported by many Pittsburghers and community leaders. Mayor Bill Peduto said, “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.” This small-scale change has already made a world of difference. The environmental impact of this initiative is predicted to be significant, but studies are underway to determine just how positive it will be. The Wilton E. Scott Institute for Energy Innovation at Carnegie Mellon University is planning on sharing data and conducting research in order to understand the effect of the pilot program.