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Walmart expo showcases sustainability efforts

Lauren R. Hartman

January 30, 2014

3 Min Read
Walmart expo showcases sustainability efforts
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152504-walmart_green_booth_v2.jpgAs part of its commitment to encourage its suppliers to help sustain the environment, Walmart Stores Inc. began celebrating Earth Month around the world in April, as part of its global commitment to sustainability with 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 155 suppliers of packaging materials and services—a 13-percent jump from last year’s figures.Walmart says it aims to eliminate waste by reducing, recycling or reusing everything that comes into its 4,100 American stores by 2025 and reduce the amount of packaging in the supply chain 5 percent by 2013.

PD attended the expo, which included exhibitors representing a number of Walmart suppliers, one of which was, MeadWestvaco, which displayed Shellpak® unit-dose medication packaging that allows customers to ship, medications and other products in bulk without the use of bottles or corrugated shippers. NatureWorks, LLC, presented 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 our June issue), Sonoco 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. CPT (GoGreen) Inc. creates barrier food trays that reduce its carbon footprint by 21 percent and eliminate the need for labels and sleeves.

Robert Parvis, Sam’s Club packaging manager of house brands, and part 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, including those mentioned here. 

“The Walmart Packaging Sustainability expo has been a great event," Parvis says. "We see this as a key event that will drive more sustainable packaging within our network. It’s an opportunity for the packaging suppliers, the product suppliers and the Walmart and Sam’s Club buyers to connect together to make those decisions to drive sustainable packaging forward. In our packaging sustainability value network meeting 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. 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, Parvis says. "When we get into Phase Two, there are a few key topics and we need to make sure we talk to and involve key stakeholders, product suppliers, packaging suppliers and trade associations to make sure we’re moving in the right direction.”

Attendance and participation has grown each year, Walmart’s senior communications manager Christy Davis Gallagher reports. This year, more than 165 booths demonstrated packaging materials and services. Some 2,200 supplier representatives, buyers and exhibitors attended the expo to learn about the latest packaging solutions and uncovered ways to reduce their packaging while continuing to meet customer needs. Along with the exhibits themselves, there were a number of informational sessions on topics covering the Federal Trade Commission’s Green Guidelines, biodegradability and compostability, greenwashing and transportation and logistics. Presenters hailed from Procter & Gamble, Unilever, Clorox and many others. Walmart sponsored a number of informative sessions, which seated twice as many visitors as the 2008 event. 

Eighteen informational breakout sessions with key topics on packaging sustainability were conducted by Walmart and Sam’s Club staff and packaging material trade associations, covering such topics as greenwashing, the dos and don’ts of green claims, the Federal Trade Commission’s Green Guidelines; biodegradability and compostability; developments in paper and polymers and transportation and logistics. The most popular session by registration was one on scorecard metrics given by several Walmart product suppliers that have made upgrades to their packaging, which have had raised their scorecard metrics, including P&G, Unilever, and Clorox.

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