Wal-Mart to cut plastic bag use by 33 per cent

Posted by James Ferre on 30th September 2008

Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., the world’s largest retailer, has joined the growing list of retailers pledging to lower their plastic bag use.

The US-based company has committed to reducing its global plastic shopping bag waste by an average of 33 per cent per store by 2013. This is expected to eliminate more than 135 million pounds of plastic waste globally.

To 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.

“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 behaviour, 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). “By pledging to cut its bag waste by one-third by 2013, Wal-Mart is taking a clear step forward in reducing global waste,” claimed 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 commitment to reduce plastic bag waste globally by 33 per cent includes a 25 per cent reduction from US stores and a 50 per cent reduction from international outlets.

The new goal builds on initiatives they have already begun, including:

* South America: In the past two years, Argentina has seen a 20 per cent reduction in plastic bag use through improved cashier training. In the past five years, Brazil has seen a 20 per cent 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 per cent 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 per cent.
* North America: Wal-mart estimates since October 2007, it has sold enough reusable bags in the US to eliminate the need for one billion plastic bags.

In 2006, Wal-Mart developed a packaging scorecard to help reduce packaging in its supply chain by 5 per cent by 2013. Since February 1, 2008, Wal-Mart’s American 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.