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Walmart Commits to New Plastic Packaging Waste Reduction

Walmart introduced a comprehensive set of plastic waste reduction initiatives on Tuesday aimed at advancing the sustainability of its private brand packaging and promoting recycling labels.

The new programs, announced at Walmart’s annual supplier forum, are expected to impact more than 30,000 SKUs and expand efforts to reduce plastic waste in Walmart U.S. and Sam’s Club operations.

Walmart also wants to encourage its suppliers to set similar packaging goals. At the forum, Walmart executives said the company is working with suppliers to improve packaging sustainability with a focus on increasing material recyclability and easing the recycling experience for customers.

The overall goals include achieving 100 percent recyclable, reusable or industrially compostable packaging for its private brand packaging and targeting at least 20 percent post-consumer recycled content in private brand packaging by 2025. In addition, the aim is to label 100 percent of food and consumable private brand packaging with the How2Recycle label by 2022, work with suppliers to eliminate non-recyclable PVC packaging in general merchandise packaging by 2020, and reduce private brand plastic packaging when possible. Last year, more than 800 Walmart private label suppliers participated in the How2Recycle label program.

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

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At the forum, Walmart encouraged national brand suppliers to make packaging commitments along the lines of its own through its Project Gigaton platform. Introduced in 2017, Project Gigaton is a Walmart initiative to avoid 1 billion metric tons (a gigaton) of greenhouse gases from the global value chain by 2030. Through Project Gigaton, suppliers can take their sustainability efforts to the next level through goal-setting and get credit from Walmart for the progress they make.

Walmart also introduced a recycling playbook to give information to companies pursuing recyclable packaging and recycled content goals. The recycling playbook has overviews on what type of plastic packaging is more easily recyclable and which materials present recycling challenges.

Plastic waste is a growing concern for its customers, employees and key stakeholders, Walmart said. The company’s ultimate desire 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.

To reach this goal, Walmart offers low cost, high quality alternatives for single use plastic consumable products like straws, cutlery and disposable tabletops. It also recycles shrink-wrap in most markets, with 151 million pounds of plastics recycled globally in 2017. The retailer has in-store plastic bag and film recycling bins for customers.

As a signatory to the G7 Oceans Plastics Charter and the New Plastics Economy Global Commitment led by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, Walmart is working globally to reduce plastic waste within its operations and throughout its value chain. By the end of 2017, Walmart diverted 81 percent of unsold products, packaging and other waste materials in the U.S. from landfills.