Walmart Canada has announced that beginning Feb. 9, 2016, it will stop providing free plastic bags to customers in an effort to promote the use of reusable bags and ultimately eliminate plastic film from land-fill.
The initiative is the latest waste-elimination priority in Walmart's ongoing commitment to achieve zero waste. Walmart Canada's 12 waste programs — including cardboard, organics, metal and others —has resulted in the diversion of 72% of Walmart Canada's waste from municipal land-fill sites.
Customers will be encouraged to use reusable bags, which will be sold at a discounted rate of 25 cents. Walmart will continue to offer plastic bags at a fee of five cents per bag to those customers who request them.
"We recognize we are asking our customers to change their shopping practices, but we strongly believe that removing plastic film from our waste stream is imperative to reaching our goal of zero waste and will encourage our customers to broaden their already existing waste-reduction efforts," said , Lee Tappenden, chief operations officer at Walmart Canada. "We know from our experience in other international markets that an incentive in the form of a fee to encourage customers to adopt reusable bags reduces single-use plastic bags by more than 50%. Similar programs here in Canada have reported comparable successes."
In addition to offering reusable bags and implementing a plastic bag fee, Walmart will be improving its in-store recycling and collection programs. The company is working with suppliers to find new ways of removing plastic from its packaging processes. Partial proceeds from the five cent fee will be used to support plastic film recycling initiatives.
The distribution of plastic bags has been identified as a key environmental concern and has been called out by municipalities as a large contributor to land-fill waste. In addition, at the 2016 World Economic Forum it was estimated that plastic will outweigh fish in the world's oceans by 2050 if efforts to reduce the use of plastic are not put in place.
"Recent internal research has identified that our customers feel we use too many plastic bags and that the reduction and elimination of plastic bags are the responsibility of both consumers and retailers," said Tappenden. "While we recognize our ultimate goal of eliminating plastic film from our operations altogether won't happen overnight, we believe our customers are open to supporting this goal by switching to reusable bags."
The elimination of free, single-use plastic bags will roll out progressively across Walmart stores in Canada over the following months, beginning on Feb. 9 in British Columbia.