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Wal-Mart launches sustainable packaging initiative

How do you answer the CEO of the largest retail organization on earth when he lays down an environmental challenge?

Pw 10676 Wal Mart Combo Cmyk

According to Matt Kistler, vice president of product development and private brands, Sam’s Club, you begin to think differently about packaging. During the coming months, Wal-Mart will convert an estimated 114 million PET containers to NatureWorks’ polylactide (PLA). Wal-Mart began a phased rollout of the sustainable packaging last month, introducing PLA-based fresh-cut product containers, whole produce clamshells, donut boxes, bread bags, and gift cards.

Kistler described Wal-Mart’s journey toward sustainable packaging to an audience of about 200 at Packaging Strategies’ inaugural Sustainable Packaging Forum held in October in Philadelphia. Kistler and NatureWorks estimate that the conversion will save the equivalent of 800ꯠ gallons of gasoline and reduce greenhouse gas emissions by more than 11 million lb.

The environmental challenge laid down by Wal-Mart CEO Lee Scott was to maintain price stability, provide similar functionality, be cost competitive for a wide range of products, offer consumers better choices in packaging, and make a positive difference for the environment.

Kistler wrapped up his presentation at the Sustainable Packaging Forum by saying that it is important to start the journey to sustainability with the assumption that it is possible. “Challenge the status quo thinking,” he said. “Listen for issues and collaborate with suppliers on solutions. Collectively make it work for your supply chain and be open to alternative supply options. Develop strong messages on responsible choices and implement your program.” —Steve Sterling

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