Walmart’s circular economy tackling the ‘take-make-dispose’ system

Absorbs over three-fourth of the waste from its supply chain

This article has inputs from Walmart 2016 Global Responsibility Report

Walmart is making efforts to reduce waste in its operations by reducing costs for its customers, itself and for society at large as per its responsibility report for 2016. Hailed as the world’s largest grocer, Walmart claims that it tries not to generate any waste in the process of delivering its products to its customers even though thousands of tons of food and other products along with their packaging pass through its facilities every day. It says that products that remain unsold do not end up in a waste stream as the company either donates, recycles or reuses it in some way or the other. Walmart claims to have achieved 71% diversion of materials from landfill internationally and 82% in the US in 2015 although this has not been verified independently.

The company’s efforts at reducing waste in its operations led it to embrace the concept of ‘circular economy,’ which tackles the ‘take-make-dispose’ system and replaces it with one where products and their organic components are cycled back into the economic stream. In a circular economy, material and energy are reused and regenerated. They, in turn, improve product design and handling in a way that reduces wastage across the product life cycle. Walmart included its entire supply chain—from farming, manufacturing and consumption to end of life in its zero landfill goal.

Walmart kept all its suppliers and customers as well as its store and logistics infrastructure, among others, in the loop to pursue practical initiatives that helped it build a more circular economy. The company asked its suppliers to design products with more recycled content and offer end users the option to reuse and recycle them. It is channeling waste material from customers back into the production stream and helping suppliers convert the waste profitably. At the community level, the company’s corporate social responsibility (CSR) arm, Walmart Foundation, encourages communities to invest in recycling infrastructure with funding assistance.

Walmart’s advance toward a zero waste future is centered around three main strategies—eliminating waste in its operations; promoting improvement in package and product design; expanding recycling through support for education and improved infrastructure. One of the many examples of Walmart’s circular economy initiatives is its strategic partnership with food waste recycling firms like Ecoscraps, which sells sustainable garden products like compost made from food waste. Much of the food waste that Ecoscraps manages is sourced from Walmart’s supply chain.

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