Walmart's slogan, "Save Money, Live Better," doesn't only apply to the consumers who shop there every day — it also reflects the company's dedication to reducing its impact on the environment. With the Zero Waste program, Walmart has dramatically decreased the amount of trash that goes out to landfills each year from its stores around the country. The key is coming up with an exit strategy for waste items, finding new uses for items like hangers, plastic bags and boxes that once would have been discarded.
In this video, Walmart Senior Director of Sustainability & Compliance Vonda Lockwood talks about the ways in which Walmart is working toward its goals of eliminating landfill waste generated by its U.S. operations by 2025, and reducing its global plastic shopping bag waste by an average of 33 percent per store by 2013. For 2012, the retailer has set a goal of reducing trash compactors at each Walmart Supercenter down to one. Each compactor represents 10 tons of annual waste that otherwise would have gone to a landfill.
Two main components of Walmart's waste reduction initiative involve food and plastics. Foods that were past a certain date were once thrown away, even if they were still good, but Walmart has now given associates the ability to determine whether the food can be donated to a local food bank instead. As of November 2011, Walmart's partnership with Feeding America has saved 225 million pounds of food from the landfills.
Many of the plastic waste items generated by Walmart stores are now part of a closed-loop cycle that transforms used items into new products that end up back on Walmart shelves. Rethinking what actually constitutes "trash," Walmart has partnered with the organization World Wise to recycle plastic hangers, bottles, bags and other items into eco-friendly pet products, including dog beds.
Walmart's recycling and waste-reduction efforts extend beyond the products that appear inside the stores. The wooden pallets that help transport merchandise are now refurbished so that they can be reused many times. With the help of partners like GP Harmon Recycling, Walmart turns cardboard boxes and used office paper into new paper products. In California, strategies like these have enabled the company to reduce landfill waste by 81 percent.