Walmart makes plastic packaging waste reduction commitments

The new initiatives are aimed at advancing the sustainability of the retailer’s private brand packaging and promoting consumer-friendly recycling labels.

Walmart has issued a new set of plastic waste reduction commitments by leveraging its massive private brand program. The new commitments, announced at Walmart’s annual supplier forum, are expected to affect more than 30,000 stockkeeping units (SKUs). 

According to a news release from the retailer, 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.”

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

  •  seek to achieve 100 percent recyclable, reusable or industrially compostable packaging for its private brand packaging by 2025;
  • target at least 20 percent postconsumer recycled content in private brand packaging by 2025;
  • label 100 percent of food and consumable private brand packaging with the How2Recycle label by 2022;
  • work with suppliers to eliminate the nonrecyclable packaging material PVC (polyvinyl chloride) in general merchandise packaging by 2020; and
  • reduce private brand plastic packaging when possible.

During the forum, Walmart encouraged its national brand suppliers to make similar packaging commitments through the retailer’s Project Gigaton platform. Through Project Gigaton, which launched in 2017, suppliers can receive credit from Walmart for progress made in sustainability. 

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

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.

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—151 million pounds of plastics were recycled globally in 2017;
  • providing access to in-store plastic bag and film recycling bins for customers; and
  • encouraging suppliers to include the How2Recycle label on pack—last year more than 800 Walmart private label suppliers participated.

“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,” says Laura Phillips, senior vice president for global sustainability at Walmart Inc. “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.”

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

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