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Sustainability leads the pack at Walmart expo

Lauren R. Hartman

January 30, 2014

8 Min Read
Sustainability leads the pack at Walmart expo



Jeff Madzrak at the CPT Go-Green booth.

Walmart Stores Inc., Bentonville, AR, kicked off Earth Month in April with a bang to encourage its suppliers to help sustain the environment by hosting its fourth annual Packaging Sustainability Expo in Rogers, AR. Open to all packaged goods companies that supply Walmart stores, the expo was attended by the company's buyers, who visited exhibitor booths and talked with suppliers to help find sustainable packaging solutions.

The expo housed exhibits from more than 165 suppliers of packaging materials and services—a 13-percent jump from last year's figures. Walmart says by 2025, it aims to eliminate waste by reducing, recycling or reusing everything that comes into its 4,100 stores and reduce the amount of packaging in the supply chain by 5 percent by 2013.


PD attended the expo, which included exhibits from many Walmart suppliers. Some of them include MWV Packaging/MeadWestvaco (www.meadwestvaco.com), which displayed Shellpak® unit-dose medication packaging that allows its customers to ship medications and other products in bulk without the use of bottles or corrugated shippers and Natralock tear-resistant blister-pack board, which is a renewable material that uses up to 60 percent less plastic on average than clamshells.


Above, James Einstein of Alliance, with POP displays. Below, R. Derek Trader, at the Sonoco exhibit.


NatureWorks, LLC (www.natureworksllc.com) presented various environmentally friendly packaging options, such as PLA-containing snack bags that Frito-Lay will begin using next year for its Sun Chips (see PD's Top Stories article online at www.packagingdigest.com and the SunChips story in this issue), Sonoco (www.sonoco.com) produces a number of environmentally friendly packaging materials including composite cans with reduced environmental impact. Sonoco says some 60 percent of the raw materials it uses in making its products are recovered materials and its Sonoco Recycling facility reclaims or recovers some 3.5 million tons of material/year. CPT (GoGreen) Inc. (www.gogreenpackaging.com) creates barrier food trays that reduce its carbon footprint by 21 percent and eliminate the need for labels and sleeves. The trays include self-venting PP versions for the Kids Organic line of microwavable meal kits for kids (see PD, Jan. '09, p. 40).

Placon (www.placon.com) provides post-consumer-recycled PET thermoforming sheet and exhibited various examples of its RPET packaging capabilities. Vanguard Companies (www.vanguardpkg.com) offered new, lightweight paperboard liners and single-face laminations that can reduce paper content, while its designers create containers that help remove nonsustainable materials from a project. Klöckner Pentaplast's (www.kpfilms.com) sustainable packaging includes recyclable plastic pizza trays and thermoformed blisters for toothbrushes made with PCR PET (see PD, April '08, p. 22), Alliance, a Rock-Tenn div. (www.alliancerocktenn.com), demonstrated assorted point-of-purchase packaging displays and merchandisers that use as much as 35 percent less paperboard, are easy to ship and are collapsible. Alliance also helped develop a package for the XBox made with 100-percent paper-based packaging, and many other exhibitors.

Connecting key decision makers


Ronald Sasine, at the MWV Packaging / Mead / Westvaco booth, demonstrating pharma packaging.

Robert Parvis, Sam's Club packaging manager of house brands, and member of the company's sustainable value network leadership team, gave PD and other media members a tour of the expo with a few visits to suppliers' booths. “To give you a quick overview of what we're doing at the show, we see this as an event that will drive more sustainable packaging through connecting the key decision makers—Walmart buyers, packaging suppliers and products suppliers within our network. We can accelerate and broaden our efforts within packaging sustainability. We have 165 booths on the floor, and about 1,500 product supplier representatives at the event, there are Walmart and Sam's Club associates present to connect with those suppliers and discuss key things they're working on and what improvements can be made on their packaging scorecard,” he says.

Walmart's Sustainability Value Network

The company also conducted a packaging Sustainability Value Network meeting during expo week, Parvis adds. “This week, we'll be discussing Phase Two of our scorecard and about how we can further clarify our next steps around packaging reduction goals,” he says.


More than 155
packaging suppliers
exhibited—a 13-percent jump from last year’s figures.

“We continue to make progress toward our five-percent reduction of packaging by 2013, and want to start talking about what's next and where we can get more focused. The scorecard is set for Phase One. When we get into Phase Two, there are a few key topics we'll discuss. We need to make sure that we talk to and involve key stakeholders, product suppliers, packaging suppliers and trade associations to make sure we're moving in the right direction.”

Informational sessions

Along with the exhibits themselves, there were 18 informational breakout sessions over two days, conducted by Walmart and Sam's Club staff and packaging material trade associations. Topics covered packaging and sustainability, the Federal Trade Commission's Green Guidelines, plastics fundamentals, biodegradability, polymers, bioplastics, corrugated materials, compostability, green claims and greenwashing and transportation and logistics.

Presenters hailed from Procter & Gamble, Unilever, Clorox and many others. Walmart sponsored a number of


Visitors perusing the enviro- friendly exhibits at the Walmart expo.


the informative sessions, which seated twice as many visitors as the 2008 event. Expo registration was on target with last year's registration, Parvis says.

The most popular session by registration was one on scorecard metrics given by several Walmart product suppliers who have made upgrades to their packaging, which have raised their scorecard metrics, including P&G, Unilever, and Clorox.

Walmart gets a lot of questions from its distribution network about reducing its packaging. “This is where package testing can really help balance that. In order to reduce our packaging and have it perform throughout distribution is to have a way to ensure that it fits within our system. Package testing in a lab is an important way to balance that out. You can have a better design and less damage,” Parvis tells PD.

A growing event

Attendance and participation has grown each year, with more than 165 booths demonstrating packaging materials and services, Parvis adds.

“We at Walmart look forward to using this as an opportunity to further accelerate our packaging endeavors by educating our people. It's great to have so much representation from so many suppliers, and Walmart departments that all help us work together to keep our sustainability efforts moving forward in packaging.”

More information is available:

Alliance, a Rock-Tenn co. 973/610-2871. www.alliancerocktenn.com.

CPT (Go-Green), Inc., 608/884-2244. www.gogreenpackaging.com.

Klöckner Pentaplast, 540/832-3600. www.kpfilms.com.

MeadWestvaco Corp. (MWV), 212/318-5605. www.meadwestvaco.com.

NatureWorks LLC, 952/742-0580. www.natureworksllc.com.

Placon, 800/541-1535. www.placon.com.

Sonoco, 843/383-7085. www.sonoco.com.

Vanguard Companies, 800/475-0193. www.vanguardpkg.com.

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