Game Changers: Walmart Canada

The world’s largest retailer wants to become a world-leader in plastic-waste reduction. To do so, Walmart Canada decided in 2016 to switch to 100 per cent recyclable plastics for all of its private-label packaging by 2025. And in January 2019, the retail giant took its waste-reduction commitment further by publishing the Walmart Canada Charter on Plastics, effectively charting a course for itself, but also to set an example that other companies can follow. “As the world’s largest retailer and producer of private-brand products, we want to use our size and scale to take a leadership role in reducing plastic waste in Canada,” says Felicia Fefer, Walmart Canada’s manager of corporate affairs.

Fefer explains that the company is focusing on all of its operations to achieve its goals. “Our commitment to reducing plastic waste is a three-pronged strategy: using less plastic, recycling more plastic and supporting improvements to the plastic-waste reduction system.” The Walmart Canada Charter on Plastics is part of the overall plan. “It’s a holistic approach to plastic waste reduction,” she says, “with a goal to also inspire others with our actions.”

“That said, the reality is that addressing plastic packaging waste can be challenging, as plastic packaging is often a lower-cost option and a better solution for protecting and preserving products and ensuring food safety,” says Fefer. Still, she points to the specific commitments the corporation has made between now and 2025.

Here’s how Walmart Canada plans to deal with plastic waste. 

By using less plastic
  • Reducing check-out plastic bag use by another 50 per cent by 2025, taking approximately one billion bags out of circulation over that period.
  • Eliminating single-use plastic straws and replacing them with paper alternatives by 2020. “This will take 35 million single-use plastic straws out of circulation annually,” says Fefer.
  • Eliminating PVC and expanded polystyrene, which are rarely, if ever, accepted by recycling facilities, from its brand product packaging by 2025.
By recycling more plastic
  • Achieving 100 per cent recyclable, reusable or compostable packaging for its brand products by 2025.
  • Targeting at least 20 per cent post-consumer recycled content in its private-brand packaging by 2025.
By supporting waste-reduction systems
  • Committing to increased recycling by adding the How2Recycle label, which explains clearly to consumers how to properly recycle a plastic container, including prep such as washing, on all its brand product packaging by 2025. “We’re the first Canadian retailer to publicly commit to using How2Recycle labelling on all our own private-brand products,” says Fefer.

“We are constantly reviewing product packaging to determine where we can remove it or make it lighter weight,” says Fefer, adding that Walmart Canada is seeking out packaging with recycled content to build a broader demand for that content.

Walmart is also switching to more environmentally friendly alternatives for single-use plastic household products, such as utensils, plates and cups. “And by the end of 2019, we’re also eliminating single-use plastics from cafeterias at Walmart Canada’s corporate offices and distribution centres,” notes Fefer.

The holistic approach encompasses the buy-in not only of company headquarters, but also its customers and staff. Because, says Fefer, “Reducing unnecessary plastic waste and increasing plastic recycling are key priorities for Walmart — and for our customers.”