Walmart Tests Ways to Reduce Single-Use Plastics

The retailer’s InHome service piloted returnable tote bags and had a near-100% return rate.

February 16, 2022

Walmart Reusable Bag with Groceries

ALEXANDRIA, Va.—Walmart is exploring ways to reduce single-use plastics in its stores and through its InHome delivery service, reports CNBC.

Last fall, Walmart piloted a project in one store near the New York metro area that used tote bags instead of plastic bags for the retail giant’s InHome service. The store collected, washed and used the bags again. Walmart also partnered with BrightDrop to reserve 5,000 of BrightDrop’s EV600 and smaller EV410 electric delivery vans for the service.

The tote bags were made by Returnity, a company that is trying to move retailers and consumer-packaged goods brands away from disposable boxes and bags and toward a circular system of containers that can be reused. Returnity said that the tote return rate with Walmart’s pilot approached 100%.

The big box retailer also plans to test alternatives to single-use plastic for curbside pickup and home delivery, Jane Ewing, Walmart’s senior vice president of sustainability, told CNBC.

Ewing says her team is dedicated to identifying ways to eliminate plastics from the supply chain, from films that wrap pallets of merchandise to clamshells for leafy greens. Walmart is specifically focused on eliminating food waste by figuring out ways to keep fruits and vegetables fresh. The company is looking at ways to use packaging like startup Apeel offers, which is an invisible, edible plant-based coating instead of shrink wrap.

Walmart launched Project Gigaton five years ago with a goal to reduce one gigaton of greenhouse gas emissions from the company’s supply chains by 2030, and Walmart joined other retailers, including CVS Health, Kroger and Target, in Beyond the Bag, an initiative to remove single-use plastic bags from the environment.

Walmart has used Goatote and Chico Bags, which are two different kiosk systems that allow shoppers to borrow and return reusable bags. The retailer also tried Fill it Forward, an app-enabled tag that customers can add to their own bag, which tracks and incentivizes use by giving rewards.

Convenience retailers are also turning to sustainable packaging to keep food and drinks fresh and warm. The Hub convenience chain, based in North Dakota, is converting from branded foam cups to paper cups that degrades much faster than foam. Read more about c-store’s packaging sustainability efforts in Package Deal.