Wal-Mart sets goal to reduce its global plastic shopping bag waste by one-third

September 28, 2008
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Wal-Mart Canada has set its own goal of a 50-per cent reduction, having already reduced plastic shopping bag waste by 15 per cent this year. The company has a long-term goal to be a zero-waste operation.

Wal-Mart Canada will reduce plastic bag waste through existing and future strategies, including exploring new technologies, encouraging cashiers and customers to take a restrained approach to bag use, promoting the use of reusable bags, and recycling used plastic bags.

"Globally and locally we have chosen not to ignore the environmental impact of plastic-bag waste," said Jim Thompson, Wal-Mart Canada's senior vice president of operations. "Wal-Mart's commitment to eliminating waste and the challenges it represents are bold. But, in partnership with our 77,000 associates and the one million Canadians who walk through our doors each day, the opportunity for an immense environmental win is literally right in our hands."

Wal-Mart's global commitment to reduce plastic shopping bag waste by 33 per cent by 2013 and a related partnership with Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) was announced today at the Clinton Global Initiative, a forum convened by former U.S. president Bill Clinton to drive global sustainable change.

Globally, this goal is expected to eliminate the equivalent of 9 billion plastic bags worth of waste, and could have far-reaching environmental and economic benefits. It 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.

"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."

Across the globe, Wal-Mart operations 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 the following:

Reduce: Decrease the amount of plastic contained in bags and ensure they are loaded properly, reducing the number of plastic bags needed per trip to the store. Much of Wal-Mart Canada's plastic-waste reductions to-date are related to its recent decision to reduce the size and gauge of its plastic bags, resulting in an expected reduction of two million pounds of plastic resin this year.

Reuse: Increase reusable bag use among Wal-Mart customers by making them accessible and affordable and educating customers on the benefits of reusable bags. Since late 2007, Wal-Mart Canada has introduced re-usable shopping bags made of recyclable materials. True to Wal-Mart's focus on saving Canadians money so they can live better, each 97-cent re-usable bag has the equivalent capacity of three plastic bags, believed to be the most cost-efficient option of its kind in the Canadian marketplace.

Recycle: Increase the amount of plastic bags being recycled, and close the loop on recycled plastic. Through in-store recycling depots, Wal-Mart Canada invites customers to return and recycle used plastic bags from any retailer.

The company has committed to three long-term sustainability goals:
1.  To produce zero waste;
2.  To be powered 100 per cent by renewable energy; and,
3.  To make more environmentally preferable products available to customers

Questions or comments? Email greenhouse@annexweb.com

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