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Walmart says to cut virgin plastic usage by 'significant' level by 2025

Highlights

Walmart to disclose reduction amounts later in 2021

Other large brands, companies to follow

Walmart is speeding up its plans to cut a "significant" amount of its virgin plastic usage by 2025, a spokesman said May 12, becoming the latest company to agree to such a reduction.

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Walmart and As You Sow, a shareholder advocacy group, agreed May 11 that the world's largest company by revenue and largest US grocery retailer would cut its use of single-use plastic and its reliance on virgin plastic.

"We simply accelerated our plans this year to announce the company's global goal to reduce absolute use of virgin plastic throughout the company's plastic packaging footprint by 2025," Walmart spokesman Randy Hargrove told S&P Global Platts in a email.

In response to Walmart's commitment, As You Sow withdrew its shareholder proposal filed with the company and nine other consumer goods retailers in January 2021, it said in a statement.

Walmart, in the statement, added that it will disclose the details and scope of its virgin plastic reduction goals later in the year, but alluded that the reductions will be "significant and absolute." The company has until December to release a report on its current plastic usage, according to the agreement.

According to the latest data submitted to the New Plastics Economy Global Commitment initiative, Walmart used 1.2 million mt of plastic in its private brand packaging in 2019.

In addition to Walmart, Keurig, Dr. Pepper, PepsiCo and Target are other major brands that have made similar pledges to As You Sow. Out of the five companies, only Keurig and Dr. Pepper stated a specified amount of 20% by 2025, while PepsiCo committed to a 5% absolute reduction and a 25% cut in virgin material in its rigid plastic packaging, according to the As You Sow statement.

"We encourage other companies to step forward and make bold, absolute cuts in plastic packaging," said Conrad MacKerron, senior vice president at As You Sow. "Thousands of companies will need to step forward and make similar commitments to ensure significant global reductions in single-use plastic packaging."

Although such commitments by large brand houses are becoming common practice, companies have been under scrutiny lately by consumers and environmental organizations for making "zero progress" on reducing plastic waste and/or for failing to meet target deadlines.

Coca-Cola, PepsiCo and Nestle -- three companies with some of the most ambitious sustainability goals -- ranked the world's top three plastic polluters in 2020 for the third consecutive year, according to an audit by Break Free From Plastic.

Shareholder proposals for both Amazon and Kroger are still pending and are set for a shareholder vote on May 26 and June for the respective companies.