Walmart joins worldwide effort to reduce its plastic consumption
Thursday, June 06, 2019
The war on plastic continues.
In April, the Oregon Senate approved a limited ban on plastic straws. Its passage would make the state the second after California to enact measures limiting single-use plastic straws. Several individual cities, including Seattle; New York City; and Portland, Oregon, have also implemented their own policies to curb plastic straw usage.
Not to be outdone, retail giant Walmart announced a "bold" plastic waste reduction commitment by "leveraging its massive private brand program." In addition to reducing plastic packaging, it is doing away with plastic bags.
The new commitment, announced at Walmart’s annual supplier forum, is expected to impact more than 30,000 product SKUs. Ultimately, the company leaders said they hope to help eliminate plastic waste produced throughout the world and score a PR win.
"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," the company said in a statement.
Through the reduction program, Walmart executives said they are 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."
In that vein, Walmart is now working with its U.S. private brand suppliers to reach the following metrics:
- Achieve 100% recyclable, reusable or industrially compostable packaging for its private brand packaging by 2025;
- Target a minimum of 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; and
- Reduce private brand plastic packaging when possible, optimizing the use to meet the need.
The How2Recycle label is a standardized labeling system that clearly communicates recycling instructions to the public. It involves a coalition of brands that want their packaging to be recycled and are empowering consumers through smart packaging labels.
In the move, Walmart wants the national brand suppliers it partners with to make similar packaging commitments through the retailer’s Project Gigaton platform.
Walmart also says that its plastic-reduction policy is in part because "society’s ability to collect and recycle plastic waste has failed to keep up with exponential increases in plastic production, which has grown to nearly half a billion tons per year."
More than one-third of plastic produced is used in packaging, the majority of which is used once and then discarded. Less than 14% of plastic packaging is recycled globally.
Part of this plastic reduction program includes the plastic bags offered to consumers at checkout. But the company is using this as an income generator. Walmart said it will begin selling reusable bags instead. From this point forward, consumers who shop at Walmart with either have to bring their own bags, buy bags or go bagless — the same as micro-grocery chain Aldi.
The reusable bag initiative started in May. The reusable bags are made out of recycled plastic and will be available for purchase for 98 cents.
Plastic is expected to outweigh fish in the ocean by 2050, according to a report from the World Economic Forum.
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