Walmart Looks to Reduce Packaging Waste

The retailer will transition to paper-bag mailers and offer waste-reducing options for pickup and delivery orders.

June 02, 2023

BENTONVILLE, Ark.—Walmart announced new measures to reduce the amount of packaging waste associated with online orders. This includes moving from plastic to recyclable paper mailers, right-sizing cardboard box packaging, giving customers the option to consolidate shipping on eCommerce orders, opting out of single-use plastic bags for online pickup orders and last mile delivery efficiencies to reduce mileage and delivery times.

Moving forward, nearly all Walmart orders shipped in plastic mailers from fulfillment centers, stores and marketplace items shipped with Walmart Fulfillment Services will arrive in recyclable paper bag mailers. This transition is expected to eliminate 65 million plastic bag mailers, or more than 2,000 tons of plastic, from circulation in the U.S. by the end of the current fiscal year.

Additionally, Walmart customers nationwide will soon have the choice to opt out of single-use plastic bags for their online pickup orders. Early tests indicate promising adoption rates and potentially helping eliminate millions of single-use bags each year from circulation. Walmart expects to complete rollout nationwide by the end of the year.

“Our commitment to regeneration is core to who we are and how we innovate at Walmart. Customers have told us how excited they are about these enhancements to make it easier for them to make more sustainable choices that support the planet and the next generation,” said Karisa Sprague, senior vice president, fulfillment network operations, Walmart U.S.

Walmart is also helping reduce the amount of cardboard used to ship products to customers by transitioning to right-sized packaging technology in approximately half of its fulfillment network. By eliminating unused space in the box, this technology reduces the need for filler by 60% while reducing waste caused by oversized boxes by as much as 26%.

Additionally, all Walmart customers shopping online can now request consolidation of multiple items into fewer boxes, reducing waste as well as the number of shipments.

Walmart is utilizing applied AI to identify when an item purchased online can be fulfilled from stores instead of fulfillment centers. This reduces both the number of miles driven and the number of boxes used for shipping. To ensure that items can more sustainably travel from stores to customers’ homes, the retailer combines multiple orders on single delivery routes and delivers them using electric vans.

Walmart wrote in a statement: “With a 27% growth in Walmart's eCommerce, Walmart is continuing to invest in the right omnichannel capabilities to not only meet customers' changing needs but also to continue to grow its business and fulfillment network in a more sustainable way.”

NACS houses helpful sustainability-related resources online under the Sustainability Playbook, which retailers can scour for information related to ESG, packaging, alternative fuels and energy saving opportunities.