To achieve our goal of creating zero waste, we are reducing the amount of waste that comes out of the back of our stores and recycling more commodities than ever before. Our aim is to reach a day when there are no dumpsters behind our stores and Clubs, and no landfills containing Wal-Mart throwaways.
Today, we are working to achieve that goal by addressing waste within our own operations. In our U.S. stores and Clubs we are now utilizing a “sandwich baling” process. Through this process, we sandwich loose plastic – shrink wrap, garment bags and grocery bags – between layers of cardboard and bundle it together in bales that are sent to certified processors for recycling. Last year, this process added approximately $3.5 million to our bottom line. This success has led us to plan the launch of a super sandwich baling process which will incorporate plastic hangers, plastic bottles, aluminum cans, paperback books and office paper into the bales. Our intention is to introduce the program to all stores and Clubs, which we are currently working to do. This process could help us avoid sending tens of millions of additional pounds of recyclable items to landfills.
In the near term, our goal is to reduce solid waste from our U.S. stores and Sam’s Clubs by 25 percent by weight by October 2008. To get there, it’s critical that we engage our 60,000-plus suppliers in the effort because much of our waste comes from shipping packaging materials sent to our stores and distribution centers. To this end, we will be working alongside our Packaging Network to encourage suppliers to reduce their shipping packaging and to ensure that all types of packaging materials they use are made from renewable or recyclable materials. In addition, we know that one of our greatest challenges is tracking our waste. To develop a baseline, we are in the early stages of planning and developing of a tracking network to help us make progress in this arena.
We believe we have made progress towards our zero waste goal in the United States, but the reality is we don’t have an accurate measurement of how much waste we have reduced. We do not have the systems in place to measure or weigh the waste coming from the back of our facilities. We know we have reduced dumpster pick-ups from the back of our stores, but we are unsure of how full they are now as compared to before the launch of these initiatives.
Outside the United States, ASDA set a voluntary commitment to send zero waste to landfills from stores and distribution centers by 2010. In an effort to reach this goal, ASDA has invested 34 million pounds to establish five regional recycling centers with an additional 10 million pounds recently approved for the Erith facility. In August 2006, ASDA also re-launched its reusable bags program – “Bags for Life” – with a reduced price from 10 pence to five pence.
In addition, Wal-Mart Brazil developed a partnership with the Cooperative of Collectors and Ecological Agents of Canabrava, an association of former independent garbage collectors, at 23 stores in the city of Salvador. The association recycles damaged corrugated cartons from stores, and has recycled more than 72 tons of cardboard since the end of 2005.
These steps highlight the many opportunities that exist to reduce waste in our global operations, and they point to the potential to close the material loop. Moreover, they exemplify how differently we view our business operations when it is through the lens of sustainability.
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Facts and Figures
In the near term, our goal is to reduce solid waste from our U.S. stores and Sam's Clubs by 25 percent by weight by October 2008.