Walmart Commits to Reducing Plastic Waste

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Walmart issued on February 26, a new set of plastic waste reduction commitments by leveraging its massive private brand program, according to a press release.

The new commitments announced at Walmart’s annual supplier forum, are expected to impact over 30,000 stock-keeping units (SKU).

The move is designed to help get to the heart of the problem by focusing on the retailer’s private brand packaging, building upon existing efforts to reduce plastic waste in Walmart U.S. and Sam’s Club operations, and encouraging national brand suppliers to set similar packaging goals, according to the release.

At the supplier forum, Walmart executives highlighted that the company is working with suppliers to expand efforts to improve the sustainability of its private brand product packaging, with an emphasis on increasing recyclability and making it easier for customers to recycle, the release states.

Walmart announced that it will work with its U.S. private brand suppliers on the following commitments: 

  • Seek to achieve 100% recyclable, reusable or industrially compostable packaging for its private brand packaging by 2025
  • Target at least 20% post-consumer recycled content in private brand packaging by 2025
  • Label 100% of food and consumable private brand packaging with the ‘How2Recycle’ label by 2022
  • Work with suppliers to eliminate the non-recyclable packaging material PVC in general merchandise packaging by 2020
  • Reduce private brand plastic packaging when possible, optimizing the use to meet the need

During the forum, Walmart encouraged it’s national brand suppliers to make similar packaging commitments through the retailer’s Project Gigaton platform.

The retailer has also introduced a new recycling playbook designed to provide information to companies pursuing recyclable packaging and recycled content goals, according to the release.

The recycling playbook gives overviews on what type of plastic packaging is more easily recyclable and provides information on recycling challenges for certain packaging materials, the release states.

This new recycling guidance is a supplement to Walmart’s existing sustainable packaging playbook that offers information on sustainable packaging best practices such as optimizing packaging design and using consumer-friendly recycling labels, according to the press release.

Plastic waste is a growing concern for Walmart customers, associates, and other key stakeholders. Walmart’s aspiration is to achieve zero plastic waste by taking actions across its business and working with suppliers to use less plastic, recycle more and support innovations to improve plastic waste reduction systems, the release states.

Some of the retailer’s current efforts to reach this goal include:

  • Offering low cost, high-quality alternatives for single-use plastic consumable products such as straws, cutlery, and disposable tabletops
  • Recycling shrink wrap in most markets
  • Providing access to in-store plastic bag and film recycling bins for customers
  • Encouraging suppliers to include the How2Recycle label on the pack

The Walmart Foundation is also supporting a number of circular economy initiatives such as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation’s Beyond 34 project, a multi-stakeholder initiative aimed at increasing the current 34% recycling rate in the U.S. by providing a scalable model to increase and improve recycling, and recovery rates in local communities, according to the release.

“As a global retailer that has set an ambitious aspirational goal to create zero waste, we fully recognize that reducing plastic waste by increasing packaging circularity is an area where Walmart can lead,” Senior Vice President for Global Sustainability at Walmart Inc Laura Phillips, said.

“Today’s announcement marks another key milestone in our ongoing journey of working with our private brand and national brand suppliers to deliver access to high-quality, sustainable products as part of the Walmart everyday low price promise,” Phillips said.

“This announcement sends a positive signal to the marketplace, especially in the United States,” CEO of the Association for Plastics Recyclers, Steve Alexander, said. “We applaud Walmart for establishing such a strong recyclable packaging goal and encourage others to pursue similar ambitions.”   

“We commend Walmart for working with suppliers in seeking solutions to shared problems related to plastic waste,” President of Procter and Gamble’s Fabric Care Division Shailesh Jejurikar, said. “In setting our own plastic waste reduction goals, P&G understands that driving meaningful change in this space will require collaboration.”  

In being a signatory to the G7 Oceans Plastics Charter and the New Plastics Economy Global Commitment being led by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, in collaboration with the UN Environment, Walmart is working globally to reduce plastic waste within its operations and throughout its value chain, according to the release.

By the end of 2017, Walmart diverted from landfills 81% of unsold products, packaging, and other waste materials in the U.S, the press release states.

Walmart’s plastic waste reduction efforts are part of the company’s larger commitment to use its size and scale for good and do business in a way that aims to enhance economic opportunity, encourage sustainability, and strengthen local communities, according to the release. 

Read more at the Walmart Sustainability Hub.

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