SASB: CG-MR-410a.3; CG-HP-410a.1; FB-FR-150a.1; FB-FR-430a.4; CG-HP-410a.2
GRI: 103-1; 103-2; 103-3; 306-1; 417-1; 306-3
UN SDGs: 2, 12, 15
E | Published: June 28, 2022

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Our Aspiration

We aim to break the link between consumption and waste as part of the larger global movement towards a more circular economy, meaning a transition from a “take-make-dispose” approach to one that values the reuse, recycling, and regeneration of materials. We aspire to achieve zero waste1 in our global operations and to work with suppliers, customers and communities to accelerate the adoption of innovative packaging and products designed for circularity.

Key Goals & Metrics

Walmart’s waste metrics are based on calendar year (CY) unless otherwise noted.

Operational Waste

2, 3

Metric

CY2019

CY2020

CY2021

Global operational waste diversionPercentage of waste materials diverted from landfill and incineration80%80%78%
Goal: Zero waste to landfill and incineration in our operations in Canada, Mexico, and U.S. markets by 20254Percentage of waste materials diverted from landfill and incineration per country
U.S.: 82%U.S.: 82%U.S.: 81%
Canada: 88%
Canada: 88%
Canada: 89%
Mexico: 71%Mexico: 72%
Global operational waste destination mixApproximate percentage of waste by destination type (by weight)

Recycling/reuse: 71%

Donation to people: 4%

Animal feed: 3%

Composting: 1%

Anaerobic digestion: 1%

Incineration (with and without energy recovery): 1%

Landfill: 19%

Recycling/reuse:

70%

Donation to people: 5%

Animal feed: 4%

Composting: 1%

Anaerobic digestion: 1%

Incineration (with and without energy recovery): 1%

Landfill: 18%

Recycling/reuse:

69%

Donation to people: 5%

Animal feed: 3%

Composting: 1%

Anaerobic digestion:<1%

Incineration (with and without energy recovery): <1%

Landfill: 21%

Biochemical processing: <1%

Food Waste2
Global operational food waste diverted5
Pounds of food waste diverted globally from waste stream through composting, animal feed, anaerobic digestion and biochemical processing
>950 million lbs.>827 million lbs.
Global operational food donatedFood donations globally>680 million lbs.>745 million lbs.>783 million lbs.
Packaging6,7
Goal: 20% private-brand plastic packaging in North America made from post-consumer recycled content by 20258Estimated percentage private-brand plastic packaging in North America made of post-consumer recycled content7%11%97%
Goal: 17% global private-brand plastic packaging made from post-consumer recycled content by 202510Estimated percentage of global private-brand plastic packaging made of post-consumer recycled content
9%11%117%
Goal: 100% of global private-brand packaging recyclable, reusable or industrially compostable by 2025Estimated percentage of global private-brand packaging that is recyclable, reusable or industrially compostable12
~55%54%1358%
Total weight of global plastic packaging
Estimated total weight of private-brand primary plastic packaging, including plastic bags14~1,200,000 MT~1,200,000 MT15~1,100,000 MT
Goal: Reduce virgin plastic in global private-brand packaging 15% by 2025 (vs. 2020 baseline)Percentage reduction (increase) in private-brand packaging virgin plastic, vs. prior year (based on supplier reports)(3%)
Consumer Engagement 
Consumer recyclingConsumer recycling: Pounds collected through customer recycling programs at Walmart in Africa, Chile and Mexico
16
>26 million lbs.>18 million lbs.>1.9 million lbs.
Goal: 100% of Walmart U.S. food and consumable private-brand primary packaging labeled with the How2Recycle® label by 2022Percentage of Walmart U.S. food and consumables private brand supplier-reported sales with How2Recycle® label17
50%57%80%
Percentage of Sam's Club private brand supplier-reported sales with How2Recycle® label38%67%84%
Supplier Engagement
FY2020
FY2021
FY2022
Project Gigaton™Number of suppliers reporting progress on either or both the waste and packaging pillars of Project GigatonTM>1,000>2,100

See all data and progress toward goals and commitments in our ESG Data Table.

Relevance to Our Business & Society

The World Bank estimates that global municipal waste will increase from 2.01 billion metric tons in 2016 to 3.40 billion tons in 2050, with at least one third of it not managed in an environmentally safe manner, creating economic and environmental costs for communities, governments, and businesses.

Packaging from retail and consumer goods contributes to such waste. While it helps protect products, enhances food safety, and significantly reduces food waste, packaging often acts simply as a means for product transport. Once the end user has removed the packaging, it often becomes waste.

Plastic packaging in particular creates challenges. On the one hand, plastic packaging is lightweight and durable, making transporting goods easier; plastic also often has a lower overall environmental footprint than paper and other materials in terms of carbon emissions and land usage. On the other hand, increased plastic use, including single-use and non-recyclable plastics, often means more plastics ending up in our natural environment. For instance, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, consumers globally use about 1 trillion plastic bags each year and less than 10% of plastic bags in the U.S. are ultimately recycled. Mismanaged plastics deeply impact wildlife, marine ecosystems, and waterways. One study estimates that, by 2040, plastic waste management alone will cost governments $670 billion and businesses $10 trillion.

No single action will bring about a circular economy. A 2020 analysis by SYSTEMIQ and The Pew Charitable Trusts illustrates the systemic action required by business, civil society, and government to meaningfully decrease plastic pollution. The analysis includes a roadmap that outlines a combination of approaches that will help address the problem, including investments in new technology, increased recycling, reduction and reuse, adjustments to public policy, changes in consumer behavior, additional materials R&D, and improved recycling and waste management infrastructure. This roadmap builds on research from the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, which found that recycling alone was not enough to fix the problem. Rather, large scale reuse models and innovations are required to make plastics more reusable, recyclable, or compostable.

Millions of tons of food, products, and packaging move through Walmart facilities every year. Wasting any of it ultimately drives up costs for everyone. Stakeholders want us to eliminate waste in our own operations while also engaging suppliers and customers to help reduce waste upstream (in product production) and downstream (in households, including packaging and food waste), and moving toward a circular economy.

Walmart’s Approach

To move toward our zero-waste vision, we work on eliminating waste in our own operations while engaging suppliers, customers and others to reduce waste in the broader value chain and promote circularity with a focus on the following:

  • Operational Waste: Achieving zero operational waste in Canada, Mexico and the United States by 2025 by addressing secondary packaging, unsold food and general merchandise, and other items such as automotive waste and signage.
  • Food Waste in the Value Chain: In addition to eliminating food waste in our operations, we encourage suppliers and customers to reduce food waste and support local food recovery/hunger relief programs.
  • Product Packaging Waste: Optimizing packaging and using labeling to help customers further reduce, reuse, and recycle.
  • Plastic Bags: Reducing single-use plastic bag waste and reliance on these plastic bags through innovation and customer engagement.
  • Engaging Customers in the Circular Economy: Providing customers additional ways to buy gently used products, buy more sustainable products, and increase customer recycling habits.
  • Investing in Local Infrastructure: Collaborating with other companies, governments, nonprofits, and institutions to address systemic issues around waste management infrastructure.

Key Strategies & Progress

Operational Waste | Food Waste in the Value Chain | Product Packaging Waste | Plastic Bags | Engaging Customers in the Circular Economy | Investing in Local Infrastructure

Operational Waste

Primary sources of waste within our operations—stores, clubs, distribution and fulfillment centers, truck fleet, and data centers—include secondary packaging like cardboard and plastics, unsold food, unsold general merchandise, automotive waste, and assets like signage, shelves, and carts.

We set market-specific goals to achieve zero operational waste by 2025. Globally, we diverted 78% of operational waste from landfills and incineration in 2021. This is down from 80% diversion in 2020; primary factors included a substantial increase in remodel waste in our U.S. businesses, which comprise a substantial portion of our overall global waste, and the divestiture of our U.K. business, which was a leader in waste diversion.

Secondary Packaging

Throughout our operations, we aim to eliminate waste by reducing, reusing, and recycling the secondary packaging (e.g., cardboard, plastics) needed to run our business.

Because of Walmart's scale, small changes make a big difference. In addition to having a well-established program to recycle corrugated fiberboard in our facilities, we have opted for reusable packaging containers to ship select produce, fruits, and eggs, thereby reducing single-use packaging on these items. We also contract with vendors to collect and recycle rigid plastics and plastic film produced from our operations and returned by customers. In 2021, we recycled more than 313 million pounds of plastic film and rigid plastics globally, a decrease from 2020.

Food Waste

In 2019 we joined the Champions 12.3 “10x20x30” initiative, through which the world’s 10 largest food retailers have committed to engage 20 of our priority suppliers to halve food loss and waste by 2030. Focusing on the produce value chain, we have recruited and engaged 21 suppliers as of April 2022. Of our 21 engaged suppliers, at least 8 have reported food waste to the Food Waste Atlas or other sources since joining 10x20x30.

In addition to our zero operational waste goal, we set a 50% food waste reduction goal (by 2030 vs. a 2016 baseline) in support of the Champions 12.3 10x20x30 and CGF Food Waste Coalition of Action initiatives. As of the end of 2021, we had achieved an 18% reduction.18

In October 2021, Walmart also joined the Pacific Coast Food Waste Commitment, which brings together regional leaders from the food industry across the U.S. and Canada around a common goal of cutting food waste by 50% in the Pacific Coast region by 2030. The industry leaders in the collaborative will work with jurisdictions in the region to advance organic waste prevention and recovery initiatives. Learnings from this regional project will help inform the execution of our global goal.

To reduce food waste in our operations, we focus on increasing the sell-through of food products and diverting unsold food from landfills, ensuring still fresh food is used for meals in the community or for other purposes such as animal feed, composting or anaerobic digestion.

To reduce our volume of unsold food, we have strengthened our forecasting and ordering tools to improve inventory flow, adjusted store fixtures to increase product turnover, enhanced distribution centers, and offered discounts on food nearing its expiration date. In FY2022, U.S. stores and clubs sold more than 190 million food units through food discount programs,19 a decrease from the 256 million units sold through Walmart U.S. stores in FY2021 due to changes in program execution.

When food goes unsold, Walmart works to get it to people and places that need it. In FY2022, we donated more than 696 million pounds of food in the U.S. alone.20 In addition to supporting food banks and other charities, Walmart and the Walmart Foundation have provided funds to increase the capacity of the charitable meal system to recover and distribute fresh food. In FY2022, Walmart and the Walmart Foundation contributed over $9 million in grants to support Feeding America, a nationwide network of 200 food banks in the U.S.

If food is no longer edible, we work to convert it into animal feed, compost, or energy. For example, our stores in Canada, Central America, and the U.S. send a portion of their food waste to anaerobic digestion plants, which use bacteria to break down and transform food waste and biosolids into biogas that can be used as fuel and fertilizer.

Unsold General Merchandise and Assets

Walmart works to reuse or repurpose operational fixtures, products and materials that are not intended for purchase by customers as well as unsold general merchandise. For example, in 2021, we refurbished more than 575,000 decks, shelves, uprights and other store fixtures in the U.S., saving 9.4 million pounds of steel.

Food Waste in the Value Chain

Our initiatives to reduce food waste are designed to span the entire food supply chain, including implementing best practices in our retail and distribution operations (see the operational waste discussion above), as well as working with suppliers and NGOs upstream and empowering consumers downstream.

Food Recovery Upstream & Downstream

Since 2016, Walmart and the Walmart Foundation have made over $32 million in philanthropic investments in innovation and capacity building along the value chain to help recover food from landfill or incineration at the farm, retail, and consumer level. Our philanthropic investments have focused on the following:

  • Developing tools to measure food waste;
  • Promoting behavioral change among producers and consumers to reduce food waste;
  • Building technology and transportation capacity to facilitate more efficient food recovery; and
  • Developing innovative approaches to distribute fresh food more quickly to people in need, such as re-processing food and connecting food providers with organizations that are able to distribute it

Walmart leaders also serve on the boards of organizations that work in food recovery, including Feeding America. Learn more about our philanthropic initiatives around food recovery at Walmart.org.

Engaging Suppliers to Reduce Food Waste

Walmart engages with suppliers and others in the food industry to accelerate progress on reducing food waste in value chains.

  • We encourage our suppliers to measure and report food waste through Project Gigaton™ and introduce practices for reprocessing, donating, and recycling. As of the end of 2021, more than 1,950 suppliers have set SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-limited) goals related to waste through the Project GigatonTM platform.
  • In line with the Consumer Goods Forum’s (CGF) Date Labeling Call to Action, we encourage suppliers to standardize date labeling. This includes using the standard term “Best If Used By” on packaged-food labeling if the date is simply related to optimal quality rather than safety, in which case the standard term is “Use By.” We estimate that in FY2022, 91% of our Walmart U.S. private-brand food supplier-reported sales came from items carrying “Best if Used By” or “Use By” standardized date label.
  • We are also a member of the Consumer Goods Forum’s Food Waste Coalition of Action, and work with other retailers and suppliers striving to halve per capita global food waste at the retail and consumer levels, and reduce food loss along production and supply chains, including at the post-harvest stage, by 2030. We are also a signatory to the U.S. Department of Agriculture and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Food Loss and Waste 2030 Champions program

Product Packaging Waste

Our ambition is to accelerate a transition to 100% reusable, recyclable, or industrially compostable packaging. We have set a goal to achieve this ambition for Walmart private brand packaging by 2025 and are currently at 58%.12

We are also working to use more sustainable inputs and have set the following goals to support this:

  • Achieve 20% post-consumer recycled content in Walmart’s private-brand product packaging in North America by 2025; as of the end of 2021 we were at 7%.
  • Achieve 17% post-consumer recycled content in Walmart’s private-brand product packaging globally by 2025; as of the end of 2021 we were at 7%.10
  • Reduce Walmart’s virgin plastic footprint by 15% (vs. a 2020 baseline), including single-use products, packaging and single-use plastic bags; in 2021, our footprint increased by 3%.

The decrease in post-consumer recycled content and the increase in virgin plastic in 2021 are largely attributable to global shortages of post-consumer recycled content, which reduced availability and increased prices substantially. To get back on track towards meeting our goals, we are focused on helping our suppliers secure additional supplies of post-consumer recycled content and reducing packaging overall.
Achieving these goals will require us to use multiple levers, such as eliminating unnecessary and hard-to-recycle plastic packaging and substituting plastic packaging with alternative materials. These levers are drawn in part from guidance provided in Breaking the Plastic Wave, a report published by SystemIQ and Pew Charitable Trusts. Some examples include removing plastic windows from boxes, switching blister packs to paperboard boxes and eliminating plastics wrapped in plastics.

Problematic Packaging Materials: Strategies and Interventions21

Material Types

Most common packaging formats

% of our packaging footprint

% Recycled Content

Intervention method

Plastic#1 and #2PET and HDPEPET: Bottles, jugs, cups, jars, trays, clamshells, blister packaging
25%7%Optimize for improved recyclability through design; incorporate recycled content for maximum circularity
HDPE: Bottles, jugs, cups, jars, tubes, bags
#3 and #6
PVC and Polystyrene
Trays, clamshells, blister packaging, inner packaging2%3%Eliminate; substitute with alternative materials
#4LDPEBags, films, sachet14%7%Redesign to mono-layer PE and collect in-store via store drop-off at all Walmart locations
#5
PolypropyleneCups, bottles2%12%Work to improve recycling through The Recycling Partnership’s Polypropylene Coalition
#7Other plastic typesBottles, films5%7%Minimize use when possible to reduce contamination
MetalCans, trays8%14%Continue to promote recyclability and use of recycled content
Corrugate and paperBoxes, blister packaging, hang tags39%25%Continue to promote recyclability (e.g., reduce plastic coatings) and use of recycled content; for virgin materials, increase use of certified sustainable content
Glass
Bottles3%25%Reduce weight when possible or transition to lighter materials
OtherBags and boxes1%11%

Engaging Suppliers to Reduce Packaging Waste

We engage suppliers and others to accelerate reduction of product packaging waste. Our priorities include:

  • Engaging Suppliers Through Project GigatonTM: The Project GigatonTM Packaging pillar encourages suppliers to optimize packaging design, source packaging materials sustainably, and support recycling.
  • Creating a Shared Vision of a Circular Economy: In 2020, we joined the U.S. and Canada Plastics Pacts as part of the Ellen MacArthur Foundation’s initiative to create a circular economy for plastics. The effort seeks to unify businesses, government entities, NGOs, researchers and other stakeholders around a common vision for a circular economy for plastics, which includes an aspiration to recycle or compost 50% of plastic packaging by 2025. Walmart also co-leads the Consumer Goods Forum (CGF) Plastics Coalition and helped shape a position paper on optimal Extended Producer Responsibility programs.
  • Phasing Out Hard-to-Recycle Materials, Colors and Labels: Walmart co-leads the Consumer Goods Forum Plastics Coalition working group of retailers and manufacturers. The Coalition helped introduce "Golden Design Rules" to encourage reducing plastic use and improving recyclability by phasing out materials, colors and labels from packaging that are challenging to recycle.
  • Providing Tools and Other Resources: We provide multiple resources to suppliers, such as the Walmart Recycling Playbook, a resource developed by Walmart in collaboration with The Association of Plastic Recyclers (APR), the Sustainable Packaging Coalition and Pure Strategies. The Playbook provides voluntary guidelines for streamlined packaging design and can be found on Walmart’s Sustainability Hub. The Hub contains additional tools, trainings, and informational videos. The Walmart Recycling Playbook is available to any company, not just Walmart and Sam’s Club suppliers. To hone in on key changes in specific departments, we developed shorter playbooks focused on packaging related to specific product types.
  • Facilitating Knowledge Sharing: In November 2021, Walmart hosted a virtual Sustainable Packaging Innovation Summit with more than 4,000 in attendance or accessing the replay online. The summit explored solutions to the plastics problem and provided guidance on how to spur action and achieve reduction goals. Walmart leaders, suppliers and NGOs addressed trends in innovation, public policy, and the importance of elimination, reduction, and reuse.
  • Expand Adoption of Circular Goals: With the support of Walmart, The Recycling Partnership and SYSTEMIQ came together to help accelerate industry adoption of circularity commitments through the development of Plastic IQ, a scenario modeling tool to help U.S. companies set effective circularity strategies. The tool is available in the U.S. here. Since the launch in May 2021, the Plastic IQ tool has been used by over 175 companies, representing approximately 20% of all plastic packaging generated in the U.S. Plastic IQ was further refined to enable participants to more efficiently report their product packaging use with U.S. Plastics Pact (WWF's Resource Tracker) and Walmart's Project GigatonTM.

Plastic Bags

Walmart is undertaking multiple coordinated efforts to reduce single-use plastic bag waste. As of 2021, we estimate that plastic bags account for 15% of our global plastic packaging footprint.22

Recent efforts include:

  • Identifying Alternatives: In 2020, we became a founding partner of Closed Loop Partners’ Beyond the Bag effort. We work with peers like Target and CVS Health, as well as innovators, to identify scalable alternatives to single-use plastic bags. Collectively, founding partners have committed $15 million to launch the Beyond the Bag Initiative. This three-year initiative aims to identify, test and implement viable design solutions and more sustainable models for single-use plastic retail bags. In 2021, the consortium welcomed the nine winners of the Beyond the Bag Challenge into a six-month accelerator, resulting in a multi-retailer pilot for six solutions that took place in Northern California and the metro-New York area. The pilots thus far are just one part of the consortium’s broader work to spur innovation, advance materials recovery, identify best practices for policy, and engage consumers.
  • Piloting and Transitioning to Bagless Options: We are experimenting with bagless options in markets that have high customer interest and/or regulatory requirements that make bagless the norm. Walmart U.S. launched a bagless pilot in Vermont, where 78% of our customers support bagless shopping instead of paying a fee for single-use bags. We have also expanded our bagless pickup service to stores in Connecticut, Maine, and New York. Insights from such initiatives help inform future bagless efforts. In December 2021, Walmart announced that we would eliminate single-use plastic shopping bags at our stores in Canada by the end of April 2022. We met that deadline, making us one of the largest retailers in the country to make this change. Walmart Mexico is also going bagless. Our #SinBolsaPorFavor campaign was implemented to encourage our customers to employ reusable bags by making the green bag available and inviting them to bring their own. At the end of 2020, more than 72% of our stores in Mexico stopped offering single-use plastic bags.
  • Encouraging Customers to Use Reusable Bags: To make it more convenient for customers to choose reusable options, we improved the placement of reusable bags and offered new designs.
  • Providing Customers an Opportunity to Recycle: In an effort to significantly increase access to in-store plastic bag and film recycling, we provided collection bins to more than 4,500 stores in 2021.23

Engaging Customers in the Circular Economy

We provide several opportunities for our customers to conveniently participate in the circular economy, including:

  • Launching a Partnership with thredUP to Sell Pre-owned Clothes: An online consignment and thrift store founded in 2009, thredUP helps people join the circular economy by creating an easy way to buy and sell pre-owned clothes, shoes, and accessories, thereby giving the items new life and keeping them out of landfills. Our partnership allows thredUP to select “new,” “like new,” or “gently used” items from its inventory to sell on Walmart.com/thredUP where our customers can shop with free returns available in our stores. As of March 2022, there were over 1.4 million pre-owned quality items from more than 3,000 national brands available to customers at up to 80% off estimated retail price.
  • Providing Customers an Opportunity to Recycle: In many of our stores around the world, Walmart offers customers the opportunity to recycle. Through in-store customer recycling programs, we collected more than 1.9 million pounds of recyclable materials in 2021.24
  • Electronic Trade-in and Refurbishment Programs in the U.S.: In partnership with CExchange, Walmart operates a trade-in program for qualifying technology (e.g., cell phones, wearables, tablets, game consoles, video games, and voice speakers). Customers can send unwanted pieces of technology to CExchange for resale and recycling in exchange for online gift cards. Also, we offer ecoATM kiosks to make it simple and convenient for consumers to sell back used smart devices. In FY2022, we collected 3.4 million devices for reuse and recycling through ecoATM machines.
  • Providing Consumer-friendly Recycling Information: Walmart U.S. set a goal to have 100% of private brand food and consumable packaging include the How2Recycle® label by 2022. As of our 2021 reporting cycle, 80% of Walmart U.S. private brand food and consumables supplier-reported sales came from items carrying the How2Recycle label and 84% of Sam’s Club U.S. private-brand supplier-reported sales came from items carrying the How2Recycle label.  
  • Sharing Best Practices in Consumer Behavior Change: The Walmart Foundation is supporting the Recycling Partnership to establish the Center for Sustainable Behavior & Impact to build a database of community portraits that help identify key trends, attitudes, motivations, and barriers to recycling, overlaying the national database of recycling access with socioeconomic, demographic, census, and housing data to better understand behavior at a national, regional, and local level. This data will be leveraged to create a free, interactive tool that will be piloted to help inform community leaders, policy makers, and industry on specific intervention strategies to improve adoption of circular models.

Investing in Local Infrastructure

A circular economy requires infrastructure to recover and reuse materials at end of life. Walmart and the Walmart Foundation make philanthropic investments focused on catalytic innovation, piloting promising solutions and best practice sharing. Examples of recent Walmart Foundation investments include:

  • Beyond 34, a multi-stakeholder initiative led by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation aims to advance the circular economy in cities and regions across the U.S. by providing a scalable model to identify and implement high-impact waste solutions tailored to local needs.
  • Closed Loop Infrastructure Fund provides below-market rate loans to finance projects that build out circular economy infrastructure in the United States.
  • Accelerating Circularity focuses on transitioning systems to keep existing textiles in use for new products, reducing the millions of tons of textile waste annually going into landfills. They are working to pilot textile to textile recycling pilots and develop business cases for circular models in the US. Among other things, they have released numerous reports outlining the potential for circular textiles in the US and proposed trials to test various models.
  • The Recycling Partnership (TRP) launched The Polypropylene Recycling Coalition in July 2020 with support from the Walmart Foundation. The Polypropylene Recycling Coalition has issued a total of $6 million in catalytic grants to advance polypropylene circularity in the U.S. and will improve curbside polypropylene recycling access for approximately 7.2 million U.S. households through 20 grants made to Materials Recovery Facilities (MRFs) across the U.S. to boost sortation of polypropylene and support recycling education. These investments will increase the recovery of polypropylene by an estimated 22 million pounds annually for established end markets, such as consumer packaging and automotive parts. The Walmart Foundation also invested over $1 million to support TRP in providing grants to 10 U.S. cities, representing 1.3 million households, to implement lessons learned from TRP’s 50 Cities Leadership Summit related to developing infrastructure, fighting contamination, and capturing more than 37 million new pounds of quality recyclables with Walmart Foundation support. The success of this work led to a follow-up grant to support TRP in hosting the inaugural 50 States Summit to engage state leaders in August 2022, which aims to equip them to play strong coordinating roles, develop regional networks, leverage TRP’s tools for community engagement, and improve data collection in measuring recycling access and program performance.

Learn more at Walmart.org.

Challenges

  • The global shortage of recycled materials has made it difficult to source recycled feedstock in quantities and price points that support of our recycled content goals. Currently, there is a higher cost for using recycled content vs. virgin plastic, and we expect that to continue. While a growing number of global brands have set targets to include more recycled content in their products by 2025, producers of recycled materials have struggled to keep pace with demand. Should the volume of recycled content fail to increase, or should governments fail to adopt measures to help stabilize the market for those materials, we may face challenges in meeting our post-consumer recycled content and virgin material reduction goals.  
  • Success requires associates, suppliers, and customers to be engaged. Frontline associates have competing business priorities, including inventory management and customer service, and sourcing and merchandising associates must balance a number of factors in making decisions about products. Suppliers must be willing and able to implement product design and packaging options consistent with Walmart's objectives, and customers need to be engaged in positive, circular action, overcoming low customer recycling and reuse rates.
  • Walmart’s business will continue to evolve and grow. This growth and changes in our model may require an expansion of our footprint, which may create pressure on our targets. Moreover, customers have certain expectations regarding product design and packaging that must be met.
  • In many areas, the disparate public policy environment does not support waste prevention, management, or recycling, in part through a lack of incentives to scale alternatives that reduce waste. Moreover, fragmented laws and regulations across the jurisdictions in which Walmart operates limit our ability to scale single solutions.
  • Innovative materials and product designs are needed. Single-use plastics are currently necessary for health and safety and optimal for cost and convenience; alternative materials that do not cause other environmental harms do not yet exist for all use cases.
  • Walmart’s scale poses challenges. The capital and operating costs of implementing waste management technologies can be high, and it can be difficult to scale waste management processes, tools and behaviors across thousands of facilities in multiple countries.
  • National and global catastrophic events, including pandemics, can exacerbate many of the above factors.

About Our Reporting

Endnotes

1. As used in this issue brief, "zero waste" means meeting or exceeding Zero Waste International Alliance (ZWIA) business recognition program requirements, which include adoption of ZWIA definition of zero waste and achievement of 90% or more diversion of all discarded resources from landfills, incinerators and the environment. Zero waste goal and reporting scope includes waste materials and products generated in Walmart’s owned facilities and its operations (stores, clubs, warehouses, return centers, truck maintenance garages, etc.).

2. Based on review of material handling and waste diversion processes, as reported by waste vendors, food banks and stores. In cases where certified or otherwise documented weights were not available due to industry challenges, they have been estimated based on waste audits, historical data, extrapolation for similar facilities in size and scope, etc.

3. Enhancements to Mexico's zero waste accounting methodology were undertaken in FY2022, which led to a recalculation of the waste diversion percentages reported in prior years. In instances where the enhanced accounting methodology caused waste diversion percentages to decline, we have provided recalculated metrics here. In June 2022, the following metrics were changed to reflect the latest accounting methodology: (1) Mexico's diversion rate was adjusted from 75% to 71% for 2020; and (2) Walmart's global diversion rate was adjusted from 81% to 80% for 2020.

4. Original goal covered U.S., Canada, Japan, and the U.K., and now includes Mexico. Walmart divested its retail operations in the U.K. and Japan in February and March of 2021, respectively.

5. In 2019 and earlier, Walmart reported a combined food waste diverted metric that included both global food waste recycled and global food donated.

6. Packaging metrics are measured in weight and based on supplier reports through a supplier survey. Proxy data were calculated to provide data for suppliers that did not complete the survey or provided unusable data. Proxy data are meant to represent an estimate of how much packaging those suppliers / markets may utilize to provide an overall picture of Walmart’s entire packaging footprint. The calculation is based on supplier participation in the survey as a percentage of net sales and known packaging data. Walmart private brand suppliers representing 73% of Walmart global private brand net sales reported packaging data in 2019; in 2020 the figure was 78% and in 2021 the figure was 80%.

7. Walmart divested its business in Argentina in 2020 and its businesses in the U.K. and Japan in 2021. Because of the sale of Walmart’s Argentina business in late 2020, we were unable to capture sufficient packaging data for the Argentina market; to represent this market’s business in 2020, we used the 2018-2019 private brand packaging survey for Argentina. Walmart divested its businesses in the U.K. and Japan in early 2021; because the businesses were divested early in the year, we did not proxy packaging data for the time Walmart owned those businesses and the 2021 packaging figures represented here do not include the U.K. or Japan.

8. Calculations include all private brand plastic packaging and single-use plastic and reusable bags globally. For the time frame of the private brands packaging survey, we instructed suppliers to use their latest or most recent 12-month period for which they have data available. If they reported last year, use the same reporting period as the initial/prior reporting year to avoid gaps or overlap with the prior year’s submissions. "North America" refers to our businesses in the U.S., Canada, and Mexico.

9. Previously, this percentage was reported as 9%; during our 2021 quality assurance review for our 2020 comparative period, we found 4 suppliers with reporting errors that affected our prior year's reporting.

10. Calculations include all private brand plastic packaging and single-use plastic and reusable bags globally. For the time frame of the private brands packaging survey, we instructed suppliers to use their latest or most recent 12-month period for which they have data available. If they reported last year, use the same reporting period as the initial/prior reporting year to avoid gaps or overlap with the prior year’s submissions. "Global" refers to all of our global retail businesses.

11. Previously, this percentage was reported as 9%; during our 2021 quality assurance review for our 2020 comparative period, we found 4 suppliers with reporting errors that affected our prior year reporting.

12. The 2020 and 2021 calculations follow the 2021 Reporting Guidelines for The New Plastics Global Commitment, and includes all private brand primary, secondary, and tertiary plastic packaging, including single-use plastic and reusable plastic bags globally. For the time frame of the private brands packaging survey, we instructed suppliers to use their latest or most recent 12-month period for which they have data available. If they reported last year, use the same reporting period as the initial/prior reporting year to avoid gaps or overlap with the prior year’s submissions. For suppliers that did not complete the survey or provided unusable data, proxy data was substituted to provide a full estimate of global private brand packaging. For the proxy calculation, a market level approach was used. The 2019 calculation includes all private brand plastic packaging and single‐use plastic and reusable bags globally.

13. Previously, this percentage was reported as 59%; during our 2021 quality assurance review for our 2020 comparative period, we found 4 suppliers with reporting errors that affected our prior year reporting.

14. The calculation includes all private brand plastic packaging and single‐use plastic and reusable bags globally. The estimation was calculated by extrapolating supplier‐reported packaging data (weight in metric tons) in relation to supplier participation percentage of net sales.

15. Previously, this was reported as 1,400,000 MT; during our 2021 quality assurance review for our 2020 comparative period, we found 4 suppliers with reporting errors that affected our prior year reporting.

16. Walmart previously reported this figure for additional markets. Walmart divested its retail operations in Argentina, the U.K., and Japan in November 2020, February and March 2021, respectively. 2019 and 2020 totals include markets that have since been divested. 2021 totals include only retained markets. The substantial decrease from 2020 to 2021 is largely due to the U.K. and Japan divestitures, as these markets were leaders in consumer recycling programs.

17. Primary packaging is packaging that goes home with the consumer. This percentage excludes the net sales of private brand items that do not use primary packaging. For the time frame for the private brands packaging survey, we instructed suppliers to use their latest or most recent 12-month period for which they have data available. If they reported last year, use the same reporting period as the initial/prior reporting year to avoid gaps or overlap with the prior year’s submissions.

18. Walmart's operational food waste reduction goal is aligned with Target 12.3 of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal (SDG). Progress towards food loss and waste reduction goal measured in conformance with the Food Loss and Waste Protocol's Food Loss and Waste Accounting Standard (FLW Standard) for quantifying food and/or associated inedible parts removed from the food supply chain. This figure is based on review of material handling and waste diversion processes, as reported by waste vendors, food banks and stores. In cases where certified or otherwise documented weights were not available due to industry challenges, they have been estimated based on waste audits, historical data, extrapolation for similar facilities in size and scope, etc. The 2016 baseline was adjusted to remove markets (Argentina, Japan, U.K.) that have since been divested; reported reduction is vs. this adjusted baseline.

19. Based on discounted food sold through Walmart U.S. Customer Value Program (CVP) and Sam's Club U.S. discount program in fresh meat.

20. Based on reports from Feeding America.

21. Percentages in table may not add up to 100% due to rounding.

22. This figure was 14% in 2020. We originally reported it as 11%; during our 2021 quality assurance review for our 2020 comparative period, we found 4 suppliers with reporting errors that affected our prior year reporting.

23. Plastic bag and film recycling bins were distributed to all open Walmart U.S. stores, including Puerto Rico, by October 2021. On occasion, in-store plastic bag and film recycling bins may be unavailable for logistical reasons.

24. The 1.9 million pounds of recyclable materials collected in 2021 is down substantially from 18 million pounds in 2020; this is due to the divestiture of our U.K. and Japan businesses, which were leaders in consumer recycling programs.

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