Walmart’s aspiration is Zero Plastic Waste. To work towards this aspiration, we will work with suppliers, customers and communities to accelerate the adoption of circular packaging and products. One way we are working on circularity is through packaging design.
Our Global Commitment
In 2016, Walmart announced its global goal to achieve 100% recyclable packaging for our private brands by 2025. In 2019, we expanded that goal to 100% recyclable, reusable, or industrially compostable packaging for our private brands and to increase our use of post-consumer recycled content by at least 17% in our private brand plastic packaging globally.
While our commitment is focused on our private brands, we also encourage national brand suppliers to tackle plastic and packaging waste. Our Project Gigaton program invites suppliers to avoid emissions — as well as drive down waste — by reducing unnecessary packaging, optimizing packaging materials and increasing the reuse and recycling of packaging.
Continue reading to learn more about our North American Commitment, our U.S. Commitment, challenges, and our work on zero waste.
Our North American Commitment
In addition to our global strategy, Walmart U.S., Canada and Mexico will:
1. Take action to eliminate problematic or unnecessary plastic packaging by 2025
- We will screen our in scope Private Brand plastic packaging portfolio by 2020 and publish a list of the types of plastic packaging that Walmart is targeting for re-design for recyclability. We are actively looking for solutions to reduce and eliminate polystyrene from in scope Private Brand plastic packaging, and are working with Private Brand suppliers on development of alternative solutions for food trays and structural packaging for general merchandise
2. Take action to move from single-use towards reuse models where relevant by 2025
- We will make reusable bags more easily available for purchase by our customers globally. We will continue to work to reduce plastic bags, encouraging associates to use less bags when bagging
3. 100% of in scope Private Brand plastic packaging to be reusable, recyclable, or industrially compostable by 2025
- We have set a goal to have 100% of our in scope Private Brand packaging be recyclable, reusable, or industrially compostable by 2025We will publicly share preferred material guides for our highest volume plastic packaging formats (that are circular by design) for our suppliers to guide them on designing sustainable packaging. We will publicly share success stories on walmartsustainabilityhub.com
4. Set an ambitious 2025 recycled content target across all plastic packaging used
- We have set a goal to use 20% recycled content in our in scope Private Brand plastic packaging by 2025 (average by volume)In the US, we will start with the 3 most impactful areas, working to establish a baseline and improve plans. We will publicly share where we are focusing and success stories on walmartsustainabilityhub.com
Our U.S. Commitment
Walmart U.S. and Sam’s Club will endeavor to:
1. Use less plastic by:
- Eliminating all PVC and polystyrene packaging in Walmart’s own Private Brands by 2025.
- Eliminating unnecessary plastic packaging in Walmart’s own Private Brand products.
- Providing customers with more alternatives to single-use plastic household products, including utensils, plates and cups.
- Promoting the use of reusable shopping bags for our customers at Walmart U.S. stores, including adding them as a prominent feature at the check-out counter.
2. Recycle more by:
- Committing to 100% recyclable, reusable, or industrially-compostable packaging in all Walmart’s own Private Brands by 2025.
- Developing Supplemental Guidance Documents to Support Walmart’s Recyclability and Recycled Content Goals for our suppliers to help them reduce unnecessary plastic packaging.
- Targeting at least 20 percent post-consumer recycled content in Private Brand packaging by 2025.
- Labelling 100 percent of our Walmart U.S. food and consumable Private Brand packaging with the How2Recycle® label by 2022 Encouraging our national brand suppliers to make similar commitments through our Project Gigaton Platform.
- Maximize operational plastics recycling towards zero waste by 2025 goal and close the loop on it where viable.
- Continue offering customers the opportunity to drop off plastic bags and plastic film materials for recycling at our Walmart stores.
3. Support improvements to the plastic waste reduction system:
- Working with governments, manufacturers and other stakeholders, to increase plastic recycling.
- A signatory to the Ellen MacArthur Foundation’s New Plastics Economy Global Commitment, which commits to eliminating all problematic and unnecessary plastic items.
- Supporting the major NGO/industry consortia studying the issue (Ellen MacArthur Foundation and Ocean Conservancy’s Trash Free Seas Alliance).
While plastic may provide numerous benefits relative to other materials (low cost, shelf life, portability, flexibility, etc.), 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.
According to Geyer, Jambeck and Law (2017), approximately 35% of plastic produced is used in packaging, the vast majority of which is used once and then discarded. And less than 14% of plastic packaging is recycled globally, as noted by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation. 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.
Packaging plays an important role in protecting and delivering quality products to our customers. But in most cases, packaging is simply a means to transport a product. Once the end user has removed the product packaging it becomes waste. The World Bank estimated that the world produced 3.5 million tons of solid waste per day in 2010, and that amount is projected to double by 2025.
Additionally, at the moment, plastic may sometimes be the best solution for packaging in terms of overall carbon footprint – but we want to find end-of-life solutions. There are barriers to growing plastic recovery markets. For instance, “plastic” is not one material – it is multiple base materials with many different kinds of additives. Even if the material can be collected, these variations make sortation and processing difficult.
Globally, recycling infrastructure at the household or municipal level is weak. Even in the US, less than half of US households have access to household recycling infrastructure. Even when materials are collected, sortation is problematic. Consumers often put non-recyclable materials in bins, and technology at sortation facilities has not kept pace. China recently imposed a ban on plastic waste from foreign countries, specifically around low value plastics and contaminated (improperly sorted) bales. Additional challenges also include, but are not limited to: economic viability, variability of quality recycled material, and industry and policy fragmentation.
We recognize that these aren’t challenges we can solve alone and we want to open our doors to a more collaborative approach within the industry. We want to look for and share new solutions to reducing the use of ‘avoidable’ plastic as well as improving recyclability and the use of recycled plastic in our Private Brand packaging.
Zero Waste at Walmart
Zero plastic waste is one of several sustainability priorities for Walmart globally. We have committed to achieve zero waste to landfill from our own operations in key markets, including the U.S., U.K., Japan, and Canada by 2025, in accordance with Zero Waste International Alliance guidelines1. By the end of 2017, we diverted from landfills and incineration 81 percent of unsold products, packaging and other waste materials from our operations in the U.S. and 78 percent globally2. To learn more about zero waste at Walmart, click here.
1Meeting or exceeding Zero Waste International Alliance business recognition program requirements, which include the adoption of ZWIA definition of Zero Waste and achievement of 90 percent or more diversion of all discarded resources from landfills, incinerators, and the environment.
2Based on review of material handling and waste diversion processes in Argentina, Brazil, Canada, China, Central America, Chile, Japan, Mexico, South Africa, U.K. and U.S., as reported by waste vendors, food banks and stores. In cases where real numbers were not available due to industry challenges, they have been estimated based on industry acceptable standards.