Wal-Mart is looking to reuse or recycle all of its packaging waste in more than 4,000 American stores within the next 20 years. The large task isn’t impossible: Its British stores will be accomplishing the feat by next year.
Wal-Mart already recycles about 180 million pounds of metal, paper and plastic each year by converting plastic into clothes hangers or the stuffing for dog beds, for example. The retailer has also developed a scorecard for its vendors, rewarding more eco-friendly packaging with better placement on store shelves. Wal-Mart deals with more than 61,000 different suppliers worldwide and hopes that incentivizing green packaging will cut its waste by 5 percent.
“We are looking at everything we have and asking where it goes,” said Mike Hagood, senior director of Wal-Mart’s Sustainable Value Networks. “When I agreed to take this job, I had no environmental background. It’s been hugely gratifying.”
Wal-Mart can use its British stores as a model, where already 65 percent of waste is being diverted. Here are some of the tactics being discussed to reach zero-waste:
- Plastic alternatives for packaging
- Encouraging customers to bring reusable bags to cut down on plastic bag use
- Using waste oil to power shipping trucks
In addition to what it recycles in-store, Wal-Mart locations will often accept recyclables from the public. Many stores offer propane tank exchange, and Wal-Mart’s Tire and Lube Express locations accept used motor oil, oil filters and car batteries for recycling.