Scale matters: Walmart reduces Asian waste

Seven hundred and fifty tons of plastic wrap — the equivalent of 1.5 million pounds — have been saved by Walmart China as a result of a simple change to warehouse operations.

The plastic savings were realized after Walmart developed a new system that involved reusable canvas belts to secure merchandise on pallets, thereby eliminating the need for one-time use plastic wrap. The canvas belt system is now in use at nine of Walmart’s distribution centers in China.

"We strive as much as possible to eliminate or at the very least reduce wastage wherever possible, whether that be through becoming more efficient, through using excess to benefit those people in our community that need help, or through ethical sourcing. We believe these are some of the many ways we can play a positive role in the communities in which we operate," said Greg Foran, president and CEO of Walmart Asia.

In addition to China, Foran highlight examples in India and Japan where significant waste reductions have been realized. In India, Walmart partnered with the Society for Child Development (SFCD) to make use of fresh flowers that were previously thrown away. The waste flowers are collected every morning outside temples and from the Yamuna River, a major tributary of the Ganges River, sorted and then turned into eco-friendly Holi organic and herbal colors that Walmart then sells through its Best Price Modern Wholesale stores to cater to the annual festival of colors of Holi. This undertaking expanded to sourcing bulk Diwali (Indian Festival of Lights) merchandise. Walmart said the program has been so successful that the Department of Environment in Delhi has extended its full support to the initiative by providing vans for collection of waste flowers.

In Japan, an effort to avoid food waste involved working with Second Harvest to donate fresh food to local welfare facilities. The company said it strives to accurately estimate, order and stock an appropriate amount of merchandise, but when there is excess the Second Harvest relationship ensures it is put to good use. More than 52 stores are now part of the program and Walmart Japan plans to expand that to 150 by 2016

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