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Walmart Unveils New Sustainable Packaging Priorities to Complement Zero-Waste Goal

Walmart’s new “Sustainable Packaging Playbook outlines three new priorities. | Image credit: Walmart/Packaging Digest

Walmart hopes to reignite the passion around sustainable packaging with vendors, store buyers, packaging suppliers and consumers with three new, clear goals: Optimize Design; Source Sustainably; and Support Recycling. The priorities were unveiled along with the company’s new “Sustainable Packaging Playbook” at the Walmart Sustainable Packaging Summit this week.

The goals are in-line with the zero-waste goal that retail giant extended across its entire supply chain “from farming and manufacturing, consumption to end of life” earlier this year. Walmart stated that attention to the materials that go into products helps deliver value, from both a business bottom line and environmental perspective.

“Packaging is an essential part of the products that we sell,” Zach Freeze, Walmart’s Director of Strategic Initiatives–Sustainability said in an interview. “In the playbook, we talk about recyclability and making sure that messaging 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.”

Walmart says it is working with its suppliers to help make packaging more sustainable, while continuing to provide customers with the low prices they’ve come to expect. The Summit was a gathering of hundreds of Walmart suppliers and merchants to update them on the retailer’s packaging best practices. With this came one of the first times the retailer shared these best practices in a comprehensive playbook. The priorities encourage suppliers to:

  • Source Sustainably: maximize recycled and sustainably-sourced renewable content, while enhancing the health of the materials they use in their packaging.
  • Optimize Design: find ways to reduce unnecessary packaging materials, such as extra boxes, ties or layers, while maintaining what is necessary to protect the product.
  • Support Recycling: increase use of recyclable content, while working to improve infrastructure for hard-to-recycle materials; as well as clearly communicate recyclability using consumer-friendly labels, such as the Sustainable Packaging Coalition’s How2Recycle label.

“Both Walmart and Sam’s Club private brands suppliers are now working on incorporating the How2Recycle label,” Ashley Hall, Walmart’s Senior Manager, Sustainability–Consumables and Health-and-Wellness, explained at the Summit. “It is a rolling program. We expect that any of our sustainability work be part of any refreshes or new products, but it is not designed to dead-stop, slow down, hinder the work that we do every day. As new products are coming to market, as a package is being refreshed, we are encouraging our private-label suppliers to use consumer-friendly recycling labels like How2Recycle.”

Walmart claims that the Playbook can help suppliers reduce cost while improving their Sustainability Index score by demonstrating a quantified environmental impact reduction.

In addition to working with suppliers to innovate when it comes to sustainable packaging, Walmart also works with a number of NGOs and other industry organizations, including the Sustainable Packaging Coalition, the Closed Loop Fund, the Association of Plastic Recyclers, and The Sustainability Consortium (TSC).


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