Press Release – Wal-Mart Attempts to Reduce Plastic Bag Waste

25 09 2008

From a Press Release –

Wal-Mart Sets Goal to Reduce its Global Plastic Shopping Bag Waste by One-Third
Retailer’s effort could eliminate plastic waste equivalent to 9 billion plastic bags

New York, N.Y., Sept. 25, 2008 – Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. (NYSE: WMT) today committed to reduce its global plastic shopping bag waste by an average of 33 percent per store by 2013. This is expected to eliminate more than 135 million pounds of plastic waste globally. To help reach this goal, Wal-Mart will reduce the number of bags given out by its stores, encourage the use of reusable bags and give customers the ability to continue recycling plastic shopping bags. The announcement was made at the Clinton Global Initiative Annual Meeting.

“By reducing the number of plastic bags our customers use, increasing the availability and affordability of reusable bags and providing recycling solutions, we think we can eliminate plastic waste equivalent to 9 billion plastic bags per year from our existing stores alone,” said Matt Kistler, senior vice president for sustainability of Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. “If we can encourage consumers to change their behavior, just one bag at a time, we believe real progress can be made toward our goal of creating zero waste.”

Wal-Mart’s comprehensive bag reduction strategy is being developed in partnership with Environmental Defense Fund (EDF). This goal could have far-reaching environmental and economic benefits. It is estimated that roughly 60-80 percent of all marine debris is plastic. Reducing plastic shopping bag waste could also help reduce government expenditures. For example, the state of California spends approximately $25 million per year to discard plastic bags into landfills.

“By pledging to cut its bag waste by one-third by 2013, Wal-Mart is taking a clear step forward in reducing global waste,” said Gwen Ruta, vice president for corporate partnerships at Environmental Defense Fund. “Plastic bags clog our landfills, litter our roadways, harm sea turtles and other wildlife, and gobble energy in production. With this initiative, Wal-Mart is demonstrating that innovation leads to both business and environmental benefits – a premise that underpins EDF’s work. I look to retailers everywhere to do the same.”

Wal-Mart’s efforts could reduce energy consumption by approximately 678,000 barrels of oil per year and reduce CO2 emissions by 290,000 metric tons per year – equivalent to taking more than 53,000 passenger vehicles off the road annually.
As part of the goal to reduce plastic bag waste, Wal-Mart stores in Mexico and the U.S. are introducing new, more affordable reusable bags. Earlier this month, Wal-Mart de Mexico introduced reusable bags at one-third the cost of its current bags. In the U.S., Walmart will offer reusable bags beginning in October for 50 cents each.

Wal-Mart’s commitment to reduce plastic bag waste globally by 33 percent includes a 25 percent reduction from U.S. stores and a 50 percent reduction from our international operations. Across the globe, Wal-Mart and its subsidiaries have the flexibility to meet this goal through a three-pronged strategy of reduce, reuse and recycle. Options for meeting the goal include, but are not limited to:

Reduce: Decrease the amount of plastic going into our bags and also ensure bags are being loaded properly, reducing the number of plastic bags needed per trip to the store
Reuse: Increase reusable bag use among our customers by making them accessible and affordable and educating customers on the benefits of reusable bags
Recycle: Increase number of plastic bags being recycled.

This new goal is an aggressive company-wide target that encourages local-level creativity and builds upon efforts currently underway. A few examples of plastic shopping bag reduction initiatives taking place in Wal-Mart’s global business include:

South America: In the past two years, Argentina has seen a 20 percent reduction in plastic bag use through improved cashier training. In the past five years, Brazil has seen a 20 percent reduction in plastic bag usage through its “One More Item per Bag” program.

Asia: In Japan, Seiyu began selling “replace for free” reusable bags in June 2007. As of September 2008, 46 percent of its customers now use their own bags. In China, Wal-Mart offers 15 types of reusable bags.

Europe: ASDA has removed single use carrier bags from all of its checkouts. Since June 2008, ASDA has reduced the amount of plastic bags used in its stores by 30 percent.
North America: Walmart estimates since October 2007, it has sold enough reusable bags in the U.S. to eliminate the need for one billion plastic bags. Wal-Mart Canada has reduced plastic bag waste by 15 percent in the last year by offering affordable reusable bags and improved recycling.

The goal builds on previous commitments at the Clinton Global Initiative Annual Meeting. At the 2007 meeting, Wal-Mart committed to transition the entire liquid laundry detergent category in its U.S. stores to concentrated detergent. The goal, met in May 2008, served as a catalyst to transform this category across the retail industry. Within three years the commitment is expected to save more than 400 million gallons of water, 95 million pounds of plastic resin and more than 125 million pounds of cardboard.

In 2006, Wal-Mart committed, through the development of a packaging scorecard, to reduce packaging in its supply chain by 5 percent by 2013. Since February 1, 2008, Wal-Mart’s U.S. buyers have been able to use the online packaging scorecard as a tool to make more informed purchasing decisions. Suppliers can also use the scorecard to measure how their packaging helps Wal-Mart achieve its goals to be supplied 100 percent by renewable energy, create zero waste and sell sustainable products. Wal-Mart is now working to bring the packaging scorecard to its international markets.

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