Does Walmart Recycle Plastic Bags and Bottles?

Does Walmart Recycle Plastic Bags and Bottles? We all know that Walmart is the biggest retailer in the world. Their revenue far exceeds that of Amazon’s.

But being the biggest in the world in any field definitely draws some criticisms.

Big corporations are generally criticized for their wasteful processes and activities harmful to nature. The same kind of questions can be asked for Walmart.

Microplastics in the oceans have become a huge threat to not just marine life but also the other participants of the food chain that are dependent on those fishes for their survival, including humans.

The situation, therefore, begs the question, what has Walmart done for the environment? More specifically, does Walmart recycle plastic bags and bottles? Keep reading to find out.

Does Walmart Recycle Plastic Bags and Bottles?

Does Walmart Recycle Plastic Bags and Bottles?

The short answer to the question is yes. Walmart does recycle plastic bags and bottles. The company has been trying to be environment friendly from as early as 2005 when they decided to set the following aspirations:

  • Create zero waste
  • Operate with 100 percent renewable energy
  • Sell products that sustain the environment and the resources in it

The company has made plans and schemes from time to time to encourage the employees, the customers, and even other businesses to be environment friendly. Let us look at a few such initiatives by Walmart:

  • The Closed Loop partnership
  • Beyond the Bag Challenge
  • How2Recycle Store Drop off bins
  • Reusable bags campaign
  • Pack one more item campaign

If we try to learn about the above-mentioned initiatives by Walmart, we can get a better picture of the company’s approach to recycling plastic bags and bottles.

The Closed Loop Partnership

The ‘closed’ loop in the name of the partnership is symbolic of a circular economy. It is a group of companies and establishments that have vowed to protect the environment by taking steps to reduce waste, save natural resources and generate less pollution.

Walmart is one of the founding members of the Closed Loop Partnership. Let us learn more about the concept of the circulatory economy first.

Circular Economy

A product’s life cycle can be represented using a straight line. At one end it takes birth, at the other end it is discarded or thrown off never to be used again.

For example, take denim jeans. Jeans will be manufactured at a factory, transported to a store, bought and worn by the customer, and ultimately thrown off when too old or torn.

The concept of circular economy aims to bend this straight line into a closed loop. Such that when products are about to be thrown, instead of ending up in the trash, they are taken by the companies that manufactured them.

The product should then be refabricated/refurbished and sold as a first-hand product back to the customers. Walmart and other corporations have been quite successful in reducing huge amounts of waste, including plastic waste in these processes.

To curb plastic wastage further, the Closed Loop partnership launched an initiative known as Beyond the Bag Challenge.

Beyond the Bag challenge

Beyond the Bag challenge

The bag is beyond the bag is representative of a plastic bag. The initiative was formulated as a challenge.

Inventors and interested parties were invited directly from the public to suggest ways to reduce plastic bags and plastic usage in general and the members of the Closed Loop would try to implement them.

Many different ideas were submitted and quite a few of them won the challenge:

  • Reusable bags on kiosks:

A kiosk is essentially a computer that can either provide information to the customers or services or a combination of both.

The idea was to have a collection of reusable bags made of organic materials near the kiosks, so any customers wanting to operate the kiosk would be inclined to pick the bag for their shopping.

This would mean they are not choosing regular plastic bags and therefore plastic waste is reduced.

  • Rewards for bags:

This was a relatively simpler idea, but did receive widespread acceptance and showed good results.

Essentially speaking, users who could show that they were reusing their plastic bags would be given certain reward points that could be spent in-store, at other partner stores, and also at Walmart.

The incentive to reuse a plastic bag and get usable items in exchange appealed to the customers and the idea took off.

  • Using organic bags:

The idea wasn’t super novel all by itself, but it did bring to the table a few highly efficient and organic materials that could reduce not just plastic waste but also pollution caused due to plastic bags manufacture.

Substances such as Domtar were suggested to make plastic bags out of.


How2Recycle is an environmental non-profit that gained a lot of traction for successfully implementing its environmental policies.

Under one of their programmes, they would introduce “drop off bins” to different stores including Walmart.

The bins could be used by the customers free of charge to drop off plastic bags and bottles into them. Later on, the materials would be sent over to the recycling plants for getting recycled and be put to use again.

Walmart actively signed up for the programme and allowed How2Recycle to set up their drop-off bins at their stores. Customers could simply walk to the bin and drop their materials off.

You don’t even need to be shopping at a Walmart for this, simply walk to the bin and drop it off. Another liberty was that you could drop off materials bought from other stores as well.

So let’s say you have plastic bags on you from a local non-Walmart store, you could still walk into a Walmart and use the drop-off bin.

The programme and its open nature were accepted by the public with open arms and it has been able to make a dent in the overall plastic usage and waste, especially the kind caused due to plastic bags and bottles.

Pack one more item campaign

Unlike the other initiatives and programmes mentioned above, this was an initiative by Walmart alone. The spirit is simple. Walmart instructed its cashiers to encourage the customers to use plastic bags only if necessary.

If the customer absolutely has to use plastic bags, the cashiers were instructed to try and fit as many items in one bag as possible.

This is where the initiative gets its easy-sounding name from. “Pack one more item’ simply means the cashier will try and pack one more item in the current plastic before grabbing a new one.

This significantly reduces the number of bags that are used per person, in many cases halving it (for example when one person took home two bags but are now taking home only one).

While the actual numbers aren’t available for this campaign, Walmart asserts that the initiative helped save a good margin on plastic bag expenditures, which is always a good thing.


Bigger corporations and companies such as Walmart are often criticized for their exploitation of the environment and their polluting ways.

When we dig a bit deeper into the programmes and campaigns that Walmart has supported in the past and the ones it is currently supporting, we get a very clear picture. The retailer giant is committed to staying as environmentally friendly as possible.

Does Walmart really recycle plastic bags?

Yes, plastic bags and bottles dropped off at How2Recycle bins go through full plastic recycling.

Do grocery stores really recycle plastic bags?

While it depends on the particular grocery store, most grocery stores do recycle their bags. For a sure shot, consider dropping your plastic bags and bottles at a How2Recycle drop-off bin.

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