New York — Wal-Mart Stores today committed to cut its global shopping bag waste by about one-third by 2013 by reducing the number of bags given out by its stores, encouraging the use of reusable bags and giving customers the ability to continue recycling shopping bags.
The move, which is expected to eliminate more than 135 million pounds of plastic waste globally, was announced here at the Clinton Global Initiative Annual Meeting.
“By reducing the number of plastic bags our customers use, increasing the availability and affordability of reusable bags and providing recycling solutions, we think we can eliminate plastic waste equivalent to 9 billion plastic bags per year from our existing stores alone,” said Matt Kistler, sustainability senior VP of Wal-Mart Stores. “If we can encourage consumers to change their behavior, just one bag at a time, we believe real progress can be made toward our goal of creating zero waste.”
The retailer developed the plan in partnership with the Environmental Defense Fund.
In addition to the plan’s expected environmental benefits, Wal-Mart said in a release that reducing shopping bag waste could also help reduce government expenditures by alleviating some of the expenses related to disposing of plastic bags into landfills. By way of example, it said that the state of California spends approximately $25 million per year for that purpose.
Gwen Ruta, corporate partnerships VP commended the retailer’s move. She said, “Wal-Mart’s efforts could reduce energy consumption by approximately 678,000 barrels of oil per year and reduce CO2 emissions by 260,000 metric tons per year — equivalent to taking more than 53,000 passenger vehicles off the road annually.”
As part of the effort, Wal-Mart Stores in the United States and Mexico are introducing new reusable bags. The new bags will be available in the United States beginning next month for 50 cents each.
In the United States, Wal-Mart said it expects to reduce plastic waste by 25 percent, though it expects to implement a 50 percent reduction from its international operations.
This is not the company’s first attempt at reducing bag waste. For instance, it estimated that since October 2007, it has sold enough reusable bags in the United States alone to eliminate the need for 1 billion plastic bags.