Walmart, P&G, McDonald’s Respond to Pressure on Waste

Walmart’s 2014 Sustainability Product Expo

Walmart’s 2014 Sustainability Product Expo. IMAGE:

It’s been a summer of notable actions and accomplishments for our Waste program with several consumer giants taking substantive actions in response to our engagement. Walmart announced a $100 million Closed Loop Fund to finance improvements in recycling infrastructure, in part due to pressure generated by our program for companies to take responsibility for packaging recycling. Seven of eight founding fund companies had been previously pressed by us on this issue. The fund brochure even uses a graphic from our 2012 Unfinished Business report estimating that $11 billion of recyclable packaging is wasted annually. “The $100 million commitment is nowhere near adequate to finance improvements needed to recycling systems, but does represent an important ‘first step’ acknowledgement of responsibility by major consumer goods companies,” said As You Sow Senior Vice President Conrad MacKerron.

In a second major development, Procter & Gamble set a new goal that 90% of its packaging will be recyclable by 2020, or that systems will be in place to recycle packaging materials, including a commitment to find recycling solutions for pouches and other multi-laminate packaging that cannot now be recycled. The commitment came the day before an October 14 vote on a shareholder proposal filed by As You Sow asking the company to phase out unrecyclable packaging. The proposal won significant support – 25% of shares voted, representing more than $35 billion of investments.

Also, McDonald’s Corp. took an encouraging step toward recycling front-of-house restaurant consumer packaging waste; the company set a waste recycling goal of 50%  in its top nine markets by 2020. The goal is not strictly for packaging waste as it includes food waste from back of house processing, but pilots will be done testing post-consumer packaging recycling in some areas.