Wal-Mart wants to boost recycled packaging content by 3 billion pounds

By Jim Johnson
Senior Staff Reporter

Published: March 12, 2014 2:41 pm ET
Updated: March 12, 2014 3:09 pm ET

Image By: Jim Johnson Rob Kaplan, Wal-Mart director of product sustainability.

Related to this story

Topics Sustainability, Packaging, Recycling
Companies & Associations Wal-Mart Stores Inc.

ORLANDO, FLA. – America’s largest retailer wants to drive increased use of post-consumer recycled plastic in packaging.

And Wal-Mart Stores Inc. is using a pretty aggressive goal to help move the needle.

The Bentonville, Ark.-based retail giant wants to increase post-consumer recycled content in plastic packaging by 3 billion pounds by 2020.

That’s a three followed by a whole lot of zeros.

Putting the 3,000,000,000-pound goal in play, said Wal-Mart Director of Product Sustainability Rob Kaplan, is certainly meant to grab people’s attention and help steer them toward the use of post-consumer plastic content in packaging.

Wal-Mart is studying its current post-consumer recycled content in packaging to determine what it now uses, but that lack of a number is not stopping the firm from establishing a goal, which might have to be tweaked up or down once more firm data about the current benchmark is established.

“This is a way to improve the sustainability of all of the products,” Kaplan said at the Plastics Recycling Conference in Orlando. “So it’s sort of a rising tide lifts all boats-type approach. And those are things that really drive our attention.”

The cost and volatility of commodity packaging materials also is a driver for the company to seek more recycled content, he said.

“So our goal is to increase [recycled content]. And right now we’re estimating what we think the impact would be if we have a concerted effort to increase. We’re slowly trying to refine those numbers. We think the 3 billion pounds is an aggressive way to talk about it,” Kaplan said.

The large goal also serves, he said, “to signal to the industry that we’re serious about it and focused on it.

“As we go through benchmarking process, we may have to change those estimates because of information we get. They may go bigger or may go smaller,” Kaplan said.

While Wal-Mart sells plenty of products sold in plastic packaging, the retailer does not actually make any of those products or the packaging they use.

But the retailer can create demand for post-consumer recycled content simply by stating its preference and creating demand at the retail level. The company can use its buying power, across different lines of products, to seek recycled-content packaging from a variety of manufacturers of similar products.

“I would say the big value we bring to it is collective action,” Kaplan said, from different suppliers.

While Wal-Mart is keen on increasing post-consumer plastic content in packaging, the company is not viewing the idea as a charity case. “If it doesn’t pay, it’s not sustainable,” Kaplan said.

“Sustainability, for us, is not a philanthropic endeavor. It is about driving our business and creating value in our supply chain for our suppliers, our partners and our customers,” he said.

For a company the size of Wal-Mart, going large into post-consumer recycled plastic packaging is just a part of everyday life.

“For us, scale is really, really a key element for everything we do from the business side and the sustainability side,” Kaplan said.

Wal-Mart’s size also means the company needs to stay away from any potential unintended negative consequences that a push for higher post-consumer recycled content might bring. Those problems could include stripping supply, growing too fast, and pitting suppliers against one another, the product sustainability director said. “Those things we are really cautious about.”

Using more recycled content plastic packaging also will help the company reach its goal of reducing greenhouse gases, Kaplan said.


Comments

Wal-Mart wants to boost recycled packaging content by 3 billion pounds

By Jim Johnson
Senior Staff Reporter

Published: March 12, 2014 2:41 pm ET
Updated: March 12, 2014 3:09 pm ET

Post Your Comments


Back to story


More stories

Image

Amcor buys Chinese flexible packaging plant

December 18, 2014 1:47 pm ET

Australian-based global packaging company Amcor Ltd. is buying a Chinese flexible packaging business for 211 million RMB (US$31.4 million).    More

Image

Soy-based foam improves window performance, sustainability

December 18, 2014 12:51 pm ET

Launched in April 2013, Madison, Wis.-based WFI Global LLC is making a name in the fenestration market with what it says is a distinct product...    More

Image

Europe puts its 'Circular Economy' recycling effort on hold, for now

December 18, 2014 12:28 pm ET

The European Commission has withdrawn its Circular Economy initiative from its 2015 work program, and will instead replace it with “a new, more ...    More

Image

Bubbles add some flair to 'Plain Jane' PET bottles

December 17, 2014 1:05 pm ET

Ron Puvak and the folks over at Plastic Technologies Inc. see big things coming from some very tiny bubbles.    More

Image

New extruders, repelletizer to improve production for InterGroup

December 17, 2014 6:00 am ET

InterGroup International Ltd. will install new, larger extruders and repelletizers at all three of its plastic scrap recycling locations in 2015.    More

Market Reports

Flexible Packaging Trends in North America

Our latest RESEARCH report examines trends in FLEXIBLE PACKAGING impacting the North American market including a review of economic conditions, key drivers of growth, materials pricing, M&A activity, sustainability challenges and the outlook for 2015.

Learn more

Plastics in Brazil - State of the Industry Report

This in-depth report examines the Brazilian plastics industry from a historical and geographical context. Our analysts provide insight on economic trends and forecasts, growing manufacturing sectors that utilize plastics, private investment opportunities, market environment challenges, and innovations in R&D.

Data tables and charts on producer prices, trade, plastics production and end market indicators is also included.

Learn more

Plastics Recycling Trends in North America

This report is a review and analysis of the North American Plastics Recycling Industry, including key trends and statistics based on 2013 performance. We examine market environment factors, regulatory issues, industry challenges, key drivers and emerging trends in post-consumer and post-industrial recycling.

Learn more

Upcoming Plastics News Events

January 14, 2015 - January 14, 2015Plastics in Automotive

February 4, 2015 - February 6, 2015Plastics News Executive Forum 2015

June 2, 2015 - June 3, 2015Plastics Financial Summit - Chicago 2015

September 16, 2015 - September 18, 2015Plastics Caps & Closures - September 2015

October 27, 2015 - October 29, 2015Plastics Financial Summit - New York - 2015

More Events