The uses for plastic are many. And often, so are the questions about recycling it.
There are seven different codes that indicate the resin content of post-consumer plastics, which determines whether it is collected for recycling in a particular locality.
Last year, a Walmart Canada team identified not only a way to make the process easier for everyone – but also a way to reduce the 5.85 billion pounds of plastic being added to landfills across North America annually, according to the National Association for PET Container Resources. That’s the equivalent of 3.8 million tons of greenhouse gas.
Traditionally, thermoform – the plastic clamshell packaging used for berries, mixed salads, toys and even some electronics – was made with a variety of plastics. While all types protect the product, recyclers have had a difficult time differentiating between the recycle-friendly PET plastic and other forms, such as PVC, which contaminate the recycling stream. And consumers can have an even tougher time determining what plastics they should and should not toss into their recycling bins.
Through the work of a specially designed committee, Walmart Canada eliminated the PVC from our thermoform packaging. Our team then partnered with the Retail Council of Canada, including our country’s top grocery chains, to remove obstacles preventing the recycling of PET thermoform. Ultimately, these efforts will help clean up the Canadian recycling stream, encourage broader recycling of postconsumer thermoform packaging material, and increase the availability of recycled PET, resulting in a reduction in greenhouse gas, when compared to packaging made from virgin – aka new – PET resin.
While each market has its own unique challenges and circumstances, we are actively researching ways to implement this program in other areas. By leveraging our size and scale, we can influence positive change not just in our own supply chain, but for others, too.