Can Walmart lead the fight to eliminate plastic waste?
Walmart last month announced ambitious goals to significantly reduce the plastic waste of its private brand packaging while encouraging national brand suppliers to do the same.
Announced at Walmart’s annual supplier forum, the program’s emphasis is on increasing recyclability and making it easier for customers to recycle.
The program has five goals:
- Achieve 100 percent recyclable, reusable or industrially compostable packaging for its private brands by 2025;
- Target at least 20 percent post-consumer 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 non-recyclable PVC material from general merchandise packaging by 2020;
- Reduce private brand plastic packaging wherever possible.
Over 30,000 SKUs will be affected.
At the forum, national brand suppliers were encouraged to make similar packaging commitments by joining Project Gigaton, a collaboration to reduce one billion metric tons of greenhouse gases from Walmart’s supply chain by 2030. The retailer also distributed a new recycling playbook detailing the levels to which types of plastic packaging can be recycled.
Walmart’s statement noted that while plastic provides numerous benefits relative to other materials (low cost, shelf life, portability, flexibility, etc.), less than 14 percent of plastic packaging is recycled globally. The retailer stated, “This low number is likely driven by a combination of consumer confusion about where/how to recycle, weak collection infrastructure, and broken links between plastic design and scalable processing infrastructure.”
The move comes amid heightened concerns over the wave of plastic polluting oceans, landfills and the general environment. While bans of single-use plastic bags and utensils are now common, the broader benefits of minimizing single-use food wrapping and packaging have been receiving headlines.
Many brands and retailers are answering calls to address the problem. In mid-March, Trader Joe’s announced an initiative to eliminate more than one million pounds of plastic from its stores after hearing complaints about “overuse of packaging,” especially in the produce section. Lush recently opened its first packaging-free store in the U.K.
- Walmart Announces New Plastic Packaging Waste Reduction Commitments – Walmart
- Trader Joe’s is getting a bad wrap for its plastic packaging – San Francisco Gate
- Lush Naked Shop: Inside the packaging-free cosmetic stores – Lush
- How to Avoid Plastic at the Grocery Store – The New York Times
- Walmart unveils plan to reduce plastic packaging waste – Retail Dive
- Retailers take aim at packaging waste – Supply Chain Dive
DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: Will consumer calls to ban single-use plastic packaging and minimize plastic packaging grow louder over the next few years? How significant will the related costs be for retailers and brands? Can they be largely offset?