How Walmart is Reigniting Sustainable Food Packaging


Do you remember that old commercial for a national accounting firm that asserted when the firm spoke, “people listen?” In the retail and grocery worlds, Walmart is the authoritative voice. So when Walmart makes sustainability a priority in its operations, vendors, suppliers and competitors across the industry take notice. Here’s how Walmart is reigniting industry interest in sustainable food packaging.

In late October, the retail and grocery giant hosted a Sustainable Packaging Summit, during which it laid out its expectations for suppliers and vendors: optimize design, source sustainably and support recycling. To help its affiliates achieve these goals, Walmart published its Sustainability Playbook. Tosca is honored to be included in the book; a photo on page 2 features our egg RPCs.

Tosca’s RPCs mesh perfectly with Walmart’s stated sustainability objectives. What’s more, RPCs meet another of Walmart’s priorities, which Scott McCall, senior vice president of home and seasonal, stated clearly: Sustainable packaging must also ensure sufficient protection of product.

“The most important thing is whether the package protects the product,” McCall said at the Summit, according to Greener Package. “We don’t want to have damaged product on the shelves. We don’t want customers bringing product back to the stores.”

Why sustainable food packaging

Walmart’s focus on sustainable packaging is emblematic of a growing awareness in the business world of the environmental impact of packaging. The Sustainable Packaging Coalition has nearly 200 members, and counts among its ranks business giants such as 3M, Amazon, McDonald’s and Starbucks. The organization advocates packaging that is sourced responsibly, designed to be safe and effective throughout its life cycle, optimized for material and transport efficiency, and recoverable post-use.

These are all priorities that match Walmart’s initiatives — and fit with Tosca’s RPCs.

Packaging that is sustainable draws fewer new resources for materials and processing, and facilitates the reclamation of materials once the packaging has reached the end of its usable life. Walmart’s mention of packaging that protects product also makes good environmental sense. Effective packaging reduces waste of product lost to damage or spoilage during transit and storage.

Playing by the playbook

In its Sustainability Playbook, Walmart points to RPCs as packaging that’s been successfully designed to protect product. The retail giant advises suppliers and vendors to “design packaging that meets product protection International Safe Transit Authority standards while using the minimum amount of packaging.”

The page also includes a brief case study of how RPCs meet this criterion. When Walmart replaced cardboard containers with RPCs for transporting eggs, “damage rates decreased, preventing 37 million eggs from being thrown out in the first year.”

‘Reigniting passion’

Reigniting passion around sustainable packaging was the key message throughout the summit. At Tosca, we get that feeling every time we help a new customer improve efficiency and bolster sustainability by adopting RPCs into their supply chain.

Better, smarter and leaner packaging means less consumption of resources to make and move the packaging, and less damage and waste of products moved in RPCs. That’s something everyone can — and should be — passionate about!

To learn more about how reusables work to create more efficient supply chains, click here.

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