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Walmart Inc. will start offering reusable shopping bags for purchase at checkout stands in U.S. stores next month as part of its efforts to reduce plastic waste, the retailer said Wednesday at its 2019 sustainability milestone meeting in Bentonville. The new bags are made with recycled materials, Walmart said in a news release.

California, Hawaii and New York, along with many cities and counties, have banned single-use plastic shopping bags. According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, Boston, Chicago and Seattle have also banned the bags. The District of Columbia requires businesses that sell food or alcohol to charge customers 5 cents for each carryout plastic or paper bag. Boulder, Colo., and Montgomery County, Md., also require fees for the bags.

In Texas, the Austin City Council banned single-use carryout bags in 2013. However, after the Texas Supreme Court ruled in June 2018 that a similar ban enacted in Laredo violated state law, the city of Austin said it could no longer enforce the ordinance.

At a supplier forum in February, Walmart revealed new commitments to cut plastic waste packaging in its U.S. private brands. These include working with its suppliers to eliminate the plastic polyvinyl chloride in general merchandise packaging by 2020. The Bentonville retailer also aims to use at least 20 percent post-consumer recycled content in packaging and 100 percent recyclable, reusable or industrially compostable packaging by 2025.

As a signatory to the G7 Oceans Plastics Charter and the New Plastics Economy Global Commitment led by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, a news release stated, "Walmart is working globally to reduce plastic waste within its operations and throughout its value chain."

Shailesh Jejurikar, president of global fabric care and brand building at Procter & Gamble, commended Walmart in a statement for working with suppliers to find solutions to problems related to plastic waste. "In setting our own plastic waste reduction goal, P&G understands that driving meaningful change will require collaboration," he said.

Walmart's current efforts to reach its goal of zero plastic waste include offering low-cost alternatives for single-use plastic consumable products such as straws and cutlery; recycling shrink wrap in most markets; providing in-store plastic bag and film recycling bins for customers; and encouraging suppliers to include a How2Recycle label on packaging.

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, the U.S. generated 14.68 million tons of plastic containers and packaging in 2015, the latest year for which figures are available. Only 2.15 million tons were recycled, with more than 10 million tons ending up in landfills.

Wednesday's meeting also included an update on Project Gigaton, which Walmart started in April 2017 with the goal of eliminating a gigaton of greenhouse gas emissions from the supply chain by 2030. Removing 1 gigaton of emissions is equal to taking more than 211 million passenger vehicles off U.S. roads and highways for a year, according to the Environmental Protection Agency's greenhouse-gas equivalency calculator.

Walmart Canada said at the meeting that it's joining Project Gigaton, making it Walmart's third international market, along with China and the U.K., to work with suppliers toward reducing emissions. To date, the more than 1,000 suppliers taking part in Project Gigaton report having avoided more than about 102.5 million tons of emissions.

The company partners with nongovernmental organizations Conservation International, the Environmental Defense Fund, The Nature Conservancy and the World Wildlife Fund in Project Gigaton. Together they've developed an accounting methodology to enable suppliers to calculate potential emissions savings. Walmart said it will publish these calculators to encourage more suppliers to join the project.

Kathleen McLaughlin, Walmart's chief sustainability officer, said the retailer is encouraged by the engagement of its suppliers in Project Gigaton. "To achieve our ambitious climate goals, we aim to expand and deepen that engagement," she said in the news release. "The progress to date shows how companies can contribute to climate action through practical actions all along the product supply chain."

Also during the meeting, Walmart gave updates on its progress toward goals in responsible sourcing and renewable energy use.

The retailer said it continues to work with nonprofit organizations, industry groups, governments and suppliers to improve the lives of workers in the global apparel supply chain, especially women. It also shared new sustainability goals for apparel and soft home textiles sold in Walmart's U.S. stores. These include using 50 percent more recycled polyester fiber and reducing the discharge of certain chemicals used in textile manufacturing.

On its goal to power 50 percent of its operations with renewable energy by the end of 2025, Walmart said it has completed contracts over the past year for 136 new solar and wind projects. These will supply an estimated 2.14 billion kilowatt hours of renewable energy annually, the company said.

More information about Walmart's sustainability efforts is available at its online Sustainability Hub and in its Global Responsibility Report at https://bit.ly/2qA69Hp

Business on 04/11/2019

Print Headline: Retailer outlines path to no waste

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