Walmart’s latest sustainability initiatives combine changes to its fulfillment processes as well as customer-facing options for reducing waste, including allowing online shoppers to opt out of plastic bags for store pickup orders and to request consolidation of multiple items into fewer boxes.
One of the biggest impacts is expected from Walmart’s retreat from plastic mailer envelopes for shipping. Going forward, nearly all orders from fulfillment centers, stores and marketplaces shipping with Walmart Fulfillment Services will now arrive in recyclable paper bag mailers. The transition is expected to remove 65 million plastic bags, or more than 2,000 tons of plastic, from circulation in the U.S. by the end of Walmart’s current fiscal year in April 2024.
Walmart also will cut the amount of cardboard used to ship products with a transition to right-sized packaging technology in approximately half of its fulfillment network. By creating boxes customized to the size of each customer’s order, this solution can cut down on filler by 60% and reduce waste caused by oversize boxes by as much as 26%, according to data from Packsize.
“Our commitment to regeneration is core to who we are and how we innovate at Walmart,” said Karisa Sprague, SVP, Fulfillment Network Operations at Walmart U.S. in a statement. “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.”
Walmart has been testing the single-use-bag opt-out option and has seen “promising adoption rates.” The retailer plans to complete a nationwide rollout by the end of 2023.
For delivery orders, Walmart is using AI to identify when items bought online can be fulfilled from stores rather than fulfillment centers, reducing both the number of miles driven and the number of boxes used for shipping. Making greater use of its 4,700 stores as local fulfillment centers can speed up delivery times and reduce fleet miles and emissions, moving Walmart closer to its goal of achieving zero emissions by 2040.
“With a Walmart store located within 10 miles of 90% of the U.S. population, we can make a meaningful difference for our customers by strategically using our stores and last mile delivery network to reduce waste and emissions,” said Jennifer McKeehan, SVP of End-to-End Delivery at Walmart U.S. in a statement. The retailer added the use of a compressed natural gas engine to its transportation fleet in April 2023.