"We don't have time to waste." With this imperative tagline, American retail giant Walmart launched its Circular Connector last April 11th.
The goal: to accelerate innovation in the field of sustainable and circular packaging, creating a bridge between companies looking for packaging that has less impact on the environment and those with new solutions to offer.
Searching for sustainable packaging
That the world's largest retail multinational is launching an online platform to encourage the circular economy of packaging – even while accounting for some form of greenwashing – is undoubtedly great news.
After all, it's a fact that consumers are becoming increasingly sensitive to the problem of plastic pollution and in general to any aspect related to the sustainability of products. And Walmart, with a chain of over 10,000 stores around the world, is held accountable by consumers on a daily basis.
Hence the ambitious commitment that the multinational has set for itself by 2025: to achieve that 100% of packaging on its shelves would be either recyclable, reusable or industrially compostable. And hence the rush to find solutions to reach the goals.
The Circular Connector was therefore created as an online tool to connect packaging designers and manufacturers with companies in various sectors, from food to cosmetics, from fashion to toys. "Basically," explains a statement on Walmart's website, "it's a platform to accelerate packaging innovation and implementation. We want to make it easier for suppliers and brands to find sustainable packaging solutions, thus enabling all of us to move faster toward waste reduction."
How does the Circular Connector work?
The Circular Connector is accessed from the multinational company's sustainability policy site, the Walmart Sustainability Hub. To participate, sustainable packaging manufacturers or designers must fill out a special questionnaire with a series of questions about the functions, materials and recyclability of the candidate packaging. Each proposal will then be reviewed according to Walmart's packaging sustainability goals and, if compatible, will be posted on the site and made available to brands for possible supply contracts.
Reiterating, pragmatically, that they "don't have time to waste”, the project leaders also made available the company's Recycling Playbook, which is based on the two principles of recyclability established by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation. Namely: 1. Is there, in practice, a system for large-scale recycling of this category of packaging that guarantees at least a 30% recycling rate for over 400 million people? 2. Do the packaging components fit into that system?
Walmart's handbook also contains valuable guidance on materials, such as those that are difficult to recycle and therefore tend to be excluded from sorting: e.g., metallic films, multi-layer materials, PVC or PVDC, PETG in rigid plastic packaging, oxo-degradable plastics and colored PET.
"We need to work together to promote innovative solutions on a large scale", states Walmart. "Companies with reusable, refillable, recyclable and other sustainable packaging solutions should therefore come forward. There are hundreds of brands striving to achieve their own packaging sustainability goals, just like Walmart, and the Circular Connector is one tool available to them in this journey."
Image: Bernard Hermant (Unsplash)