Walmart, the American low-price superstore, has taken substantial action to divert materials from the landfill, and they are planning to achieve zero waste by 2025.
“With the world’s population expected to reach 9 billion people by 2050, the global waste problem is expected to grow as well, unless we change course. 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. That’s not simply a lot of trash; it’s a lot of lost value. The world can’t afford to use up water, forests, food, minerals, fossil fuels or any natural resource in this way.” – Walmart 2016 Global Responsibility Report states.
The American chain is attempting to reduce waste in its operations since it increases costs for its customers, its business and, not least, the society. As millions of tons of food, other products and packaging flow through their facilities every year, their aim is to stop any sort of waste in the process of getting things to customers. And if they can’t sell a product, they don’t want it to wind up in a waste stream; they would rather donate it, recycle it or reuse it in some way.
Great progress has been made over the past few years. By the end of 2015, Walmart U.S. achieved 82% diversion of materials from landfill and diverted an average of 71% in international markets.
Walmart’s zero waste initiatives include the whole supply chain, from farming and manufacturing to consumption. Working with suppliers, customers, and nonprofit organizations, they are pursuing practical initiatives that will start to build a more circular economy. To this end, they are asking suppliers to design products with more recycled content, and with reuse and recyclability in mind.
They are also returning waste materials to the production stream by taking back certain products from customers and helping suppliers convert waste.
The superstore’s zero waste goal brings along some new priorities: an optimized packaging design that will protect the goods, sustainably sourced materials, and recyclable goods.
Although this is certainly a challenge, aiming for sustainability benefits the company and the environment in many ways, and it is also good news for the consumer. Packaging Digest’s recent survey uncovered that 1% of food is wasted because it is poorly packaged or overly packaged. Walmart began selling eggs in reusable plastic containers (RPCs) made from cardboard, and damage rates decreased—so much, in fact, that it saved 37 million eggs from being thrown out in the first year in use.
Among other initiatives, the American giant launched the Sustainable Packaging Playbook, a guide to some of the best practices, like maximizing recycled content and reducing materials. Zach Freeze, Director of Strategic Initiatives at Walmart, stated:
“Packaging is an essential part of the products that we sell. In the playbook, we talk about recyclability and making sure that the message is clear to the customer. For us, it’s all about clear guidance. We want to provide clear guidance to our suppliers about optimizing design and supporting recycling and we want to make it easier for our customers to recycle packaging.”