Closing the Loop, From Frosting Buckets to Easter Baskets

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Closing the Loop, From Frosting Buckets to Easter Baskets

By Steve Outain, Reverse Logistics, Walmart

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.@Walmart creates an inspired recycling project, from plastic frosting buckets to Easter baskets
Wednesday, March 23, 2016 - 10:35am


When your job is helping a company find ways to achieve zero waste across its global operations, you have to look beyond the obvious for opportunities. Who knew that this year, a plastic Easter basket could be one?

Walmart operates bakeries in the majority of its stores across the U.S., so we produce a lot of cakes and cupcakes. So many, in fact, that frosting is delivered to our stores in 3- to 5-gallon plastic buckets. And the last thing we want is for that constant stream of plastic to end up in a landfill, so we started looking for ways to turn something that was once thought of as trash into a valuable commodity.

This year, Olivet International stepped to the plate, helping us turn 119,000 pounds of resin – derived 100% from our empty frosting buckets – into a line of plastic Easter baskets that recently debuted in our stores. In creating them, we found a way to introduce those empty buckets back into the manufacturing stream, while also lowering the retail price of these Easter baskets to just 88 cents.

While this represents a huge win, the best news is that it didn't just start with Easter 2016. Over the past several years, we’ve worked to change the specifications of our frosting buckets to make them as recycle-friendly as possible. As a result, we’re working with suppliers to turn this steady stream of post-consumer resin into 2.5 million plastic pet bowls annually, plastic liners for 4 million soft-sided coolers annually and more.

The opportunities aren’t just tied to our frosting buckets. We already use discarded hangers from our apparel department to manufacture the Mainstays packs of plastic hangers sold in our home department. We’ve gone from contracting with recycling companies to purchase the by-product generated in our stores, to creating solutions directly with suppliers. In doing so, we’re finding opportunities to re-engineer the ways products are made in the first place, making it easier to close the loop on the back end.

I’m proud to work for a company that’s helping create solutions for a better tomorrow. These solutions are good for people, planet – and business.

Keywords: Environment & Climate Change | Easter | Ethical Production & Consumption | Recycling | Walmart