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BENTONVILLE -- Wal-Mart Stores Inc. will begin using a voluntary labeling system on food and consumable products to help customers understand how to recycle packages.

Laura Phillips, Wal-Mart's senior vice president for sustainability, said Tuesday during the company's Sustainable Packaging Summit that "How2Recycle" labels will appear on its private-brand packages.

The system was created by the Sustainable Packaging Coalition -- a membership-based group consisting of nearly 200 businesses, educational institutions and government agencies -- with the goal of reducing the amount of packaging that is thrown away.

"We believe that we can play a role in this by working with our suppliers, making it easier for our customers. So we are starting [with] our own private branded products that are the most consumable, and challenging our national brand suppliers to consider this approach as well," Phillips said in an email after the event.

According to data cited by Wal-Mart, more than 35 million tons of packaging were discarded in 2013 and only 14 percent of plastics were recycled. Wal-Mart said 90 percent of customers want to recycle, but 67 percent indicate it would make it easier to recycle if the product was better labeled.

The coalition's "How2Recycle" system is intended to alleviate confusion by using clear, consistent and concise messaging on labels. The labels include information that explains what type of material the package is made of and the specific portions of packages that are recyclable. They also provide instructions like "Remove Label Before Recycling."

The first products with the labels began to appear in 2012. The program now has more than 55 members.

"We cannot understate the importance of the support of retailers like Walmart in the 'How2Recycle program,' who are leveraging their influence in the supply chain to make a true difference to support the accuracy of recycling claims," Kelly Cramer, senior manager for the Sustainable Packaging Coalition, said in a blog post on the "How2Recycle" website.

Clear communication on recycling labels was included in a "Sustainable Packaging Playbook" Wal-Mart shared with suppliers, merchants and others who attended Tuesday's summit. It was the first time the retailer -- which set a long-term sustainability goal of creating zero waste several years ago -- has held the summit at its home office in Bentonville, building on what Phillips said was a sustainability expo held in Rogers several years ago.

Phillips said the purpose of Tuesday's event was to "re-ignite the focus and passion" between the retailer, suppliers and other organizations in sustainable packaging efforts.

She said collaboration could help reduce costs through the supply chain, improve efficiency and help the environment by reducing the footprint of products. The playbook was designed to "clearly outline our priorities to our suppliers."

In addition to the recycling labels, Wal-Mart also shared best practices in sourcing sustainable packaging materials and optimizing their design. Steve Bratspies, chief merchandising officer for Wal-Mart's U.S. stores, challenged those in attendance to make a difference by changing one product or process within their businesses.

"We probably don't talk about packaging as much as we should as a company," Bratspies said. "But reality is, it's one of the most fundamental parts of our business and one of the most fundamental ways we communicate with customers."

Business on 10/26/2016

Print Headline: Retailer to label what'll recycle

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