Walmart bag policy

Walmart bag policy DEFAULT

Walmart rolls out thicker ‘reusable’ plastic bags in response to Connecticut’s single-use plastic bag ban

By Belén Dumont

Hartford Courant|

Jul 08, 2021 at 11:44 AM

Walmart debuted thicker reusable plastic bags in Chicago in 2019, when that city enacted a single-use plastic bag ban.

A statewide ban that took effect last week was intended to eliminate single-use plastic bags from Connecticut’s checkout counters, but in response, Walmart has begun offering thicker plastic bags.

The bags, which the retail giant bills as sustainable, reusable up to 125 times and recyclable, are not prohibited under the plastic bag ban, because of their thicker weight. The State Department of Revenue Services defines single-use checkout bags as “bags with a thickness of less than 4 mils” — the thickness of the new Walmart bags. However, environmentalists say regardless of the weight, plastic is a real threat.

“We’re calling on the retail community to follow the spirit of the law,” said Louis Rosado Burch, CT program director for the Citizens Campaign for the Environment. “The spirit and intent of the policy is to do away with single-use shopping bags and to encourage more sustainable consumer behaviors.”

Single-use plastic bags are cheap and plentiful because they are made from low-cost, nonrenewable resources but they can take 1,000 years to degrade in landfills and have a tendency to pollute the natural environment, according to the Center for Biological Diversity.

In lobbying against plastic bag bans, plastic industry officials have said that thicker, reusable plastic bags take up more space in landfills than single-use bags. The American Progressive Bag Alliance, which represents the U.S. plastic bag manufacturing and recycling industry, argued in 2019 that bans on disposable bags would be counterproductive.

“You can ban this product … but the alternative is worse, both economically and environmentally,” APBA Spokesperson Matthew Seaholm said in a previous statement.

Rosado Burch said plastic bags, of any kind, can also cause serious disruption within infrastructures including recycling processes, storm drains, and other waterwaysultimately costing taxpayers’ money.

“There’s a multitude of reasons why we need to move away from this wasteful single-use habit,” he said. “And the reality is that when it’s not there, people find other solutions. People find other ways to carry groceries and consumer products.”

Although State Sen. Christine Cohen hoped to see the total elimination of single-use bags, she said plastic bags over 4 mils are not typically seen polluting waterways, trees, and trails.

“The bags that are four mils and over are often reused and less common for stores to offer due to cost constraints,” she said. “Therefore I believe we still accomplish what the ban set out to do, which was to minimize environmental impacts.”

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The thicker plastic bags are new to Connecticut stores, but not new to Walmart. The company stocked its stores with the 4 mils plastic bags in other states, including Colorado and South Carolina, when they enacted their own single-use plastic bag bans.

“Some of our customers prefer a plastic reusable bag, some like paper, some do the ‘cloth’ reusable,” Walmart Spokesperson Phil Keene told The Post and Courier in April 2019. “By and large, we try to adjust the offering in the store to cover the needs and wants of all our customers, while of course being in compliance.”

Rosado Burch said companies like Walmart that are providing a workaround to such policies are delaying progress on environmental education and awareness.

“We’ve been working for many years ... to get the public away from this mentality where they need a plastic bag for every item they purchase at the store,” he said. “In reality, when you don’t offer those bags people bring their own.”

Walmart did not respond to request for comment.

“I would still encourage our residents to bring their own reusable bags whenever and wherever possible,” Cohen said.


Walmart stores going bagless: when will it happen and in which state’s stores?

Shoppers in Maine will have to remember to bring their own bags to store after it was announced that all Walmart stores in the state will be going bagless from next month.

The state is set to impose a ban on plastic bags from 1 July onwards, a move that has been a long time coming but was delayed due to the pandemic. Accordingly, Walmart have announced that they will no longer be provided bags in Maine stores.

Walmart is one of the largest supermarket chains in the United States and the company have described the move as part of their commitment to promoting sustainable practices within their stores.

A company spokesperson told CBS 13: “With that ban soon taking effect, Walmart is converting all Maine stores to bagless on July 1. This decision only further demonstrates the company’s commitment to advancing sustainable initiatives that support people and the environment and to its ongoing efforts to target zero emissions in its global operations by 2040.

Walmart goes bagless in other regions

Maine is not the only area where the grocery giant is cutting back on plastic waste and Walmart Mexico y Centroamerica, which covers stores operating south of the border, have implemented similar rules.

As it covers such a vast area the move has not be enforced universally, but by the end of December 2020 the company reported that over 72% of Mexican stores were no longer providing plastic bags.

Back in the states, a recent bagless pilot in Vermont set the stage for the changes in Maine. Walmart say that 78% of Vermont customers supported bagless options during the pilot and it will be a key factor in their future decision.

The company website says that the decision “underlines our commitment to achieving zero waste and ultimately moving toward a circular economy where the materials we use stay in use.”

Environmental initiative Earth Day have found that roughly one trillion plastic bags are used globally every year, with fewer than 10% of plastic bags used in the US being recycled. Numerous studies have placed them amongst the top ten items found discarded in beach and waterways, making it a major concern.

Walmart’s own ‘Beyond the Bag’ competition sought to find a sustainable alternative to the plastic bags that are so frequently thrown away after a single use. Nine winners were awarded a share of a $1 million funding pot that will help them with testing, piloting and scaling their designs, which will hopefully become commonplace before too long.

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Environmentalists call thicker Walmart plastic bags an attempt around new law

Walmart’s 4.0-mil thick bags are labeled as reusable for as many as 125 times and recyclable at Walmarts if they are washed out and dried. A state law that went into effect July 1 prohibits plastic bags under 4-mil in thickness.

The company has pivoted to the thicker bags in other states including South Carolina and Colorado, after prohibitions on single-use bags were enacted. Consumers are not being charged for the bags.

A spokesman for Walmart, based in Arkansas, declined to comment directly on Friday, other than to say the company always follows state and local regulations. Last year, the company reported $138.3 billion in earnings.

Burch, in a phone interview, said that in Connecticut communities such as Hamden, with bans on plastic bags of 10 mils or less, Walmart is not using the 4-mil bags. “We see this move as rather disingenuous from a company that calls itself zero-waste, and puts out statements on how the business community should do its part and discourage single-use bags,” Burch said.

“It’s a legitimate concern that we raised two years ago,” said Chris Phelps, state director of Environment Connecticut, noting that the 4-mil thickness cutoff became an opportunity for some retailers to continue using plastic. “Yes, they are more reusable than thinner bags, but the point of banning plastic bags in the first place was to reduce plastic waste. Thicker bags do not bring us toward that goal.”

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Phelps said that two years ago, at the time the General Assembly was approving the law, state lawmakers should have continued the 10-cent fee for thicker bags, but didn’t. The 2019 law exempted plastic bags provided for meat, seafood, loose produce, or unwrapped food items, as well as newspaper bags and those for laundry and dry cleaning.

The 10-cent plastic bag fee went into effect on August 1, 2019, and as part of that law, the ban on single-use bags beginning July 1, 2021 was included.

During the 2019-2020 fiscal year, the Department of Revenue Services reported Friday that the 10-cent fee per-bag netted the state $4.43 million. It had been estimated to bring in $44.3 million. From March 26 through June 30, 2020, the bag fee was suspended because of the coronavirus pandemic, under executive order from Gov. Ned Lamont.

Jim Polites, spokesman for the DRS, said Friday that the lower-than-expected bag revenue was an indication that many consumers brought their own bags for shopping.

“On July 1, when the fee sunset, DRS focused on retailers and taxpayers and making them aware of the change, including that retailers were no longer required to collect the fee,” Polites said in a phone interview. “The behavior changed quickly once the fee started, in 2019.”

In recent years, plastic bags have become less common as litter along streams, highways and shorelines in Connecticut.

Wayne Pesce, president of the Connecticut Food Association, with a membership including 250 food stores and 35 different retailers, said Friday that the 2019 law eliminated as many as 700 million bags a year from Connecticut’s waste stream.

“Our members report that 90 percent of their customers bring their own bags,” Pesce said. “It’s a good law that has made a difference. I can understand how some say Walmart isn’t observing the spirit of the law. I am not sure how that decision was made internally. A lot of bags have been removed from the environment and our state is in a better place because of the law.”

The letter to Walmart was signed by representatives of groups including the Center for Biological Diversity, Clean Water Action, the Connecticut River Conservancy, the Connecticut Citizen Action Group, the Connecticut Coalition for Environmental Justice, the Connecticut League of Conservation Voters, Environment and Human Health, Inc. and the Surfrider Foundation.

Burch said that put into single-stream recycling cans, plastic bags can literally seize-up sorting machines, requiring employees to lose time while they razor away the accumulated plastic.

“While it may seem innocuous to criticize Walmart, it threatens to undo the progress we’ve made in educating the public,” Burch said. “We’re just saying to be a good neighbor, honor the policy, and put your money where your mouth is and be a leader in the business community. It’s a culture change that we’re looking to promote here.”

[email protected] Twitter: @KenDixonCT


Fact check: Walmart is only going bagless in Maine, not across the U.S.

The claim: Maine Walmart stores will be bag-free starting July 1

A recent article on a Maine law banning single-use plastic bags in stores has caused confusion for Walmart customers in the United States.

"Walmart is Going Bagless July 1st" read the June 7 headline of an article posted on the website 92 Moose, a radio station in central Maine.

The article starts off saying Walmart will have "no bags at all." Then it says customers will have to bring their own bags or use a bin for their items.

The claim spread wildly across social media, accumulating more than 20,000 shares and 35,000 comments, most in the days immediately after it was posted.

Comments show the buzz was from readers believing this was a nationwide policy for Walmart, since the original version of the story made no mention the policy was limited to Maine. USA TODAY reached out to the 92 Moose website for comment. 

"Starting July 1st we are going bagless at every Walmart," said a Facebook user in a now-deleted June 8 post. "Bring your own bags and remember we just work here so try to hold back your frustration just a bit."

By early on June 11 — four days after the initial publication — the 92 Moose article's headline was updated and a clarification added to the story to point out the change only applied to Walmart stores in Maine.

Fact check:Controversial Popeyes sign outside St. Louis not posted by employees, police say

Indeed, all Walmarts are not going bagless. The article refers to the enforcement of a Maine law that bans single-use plastic bags in stores.

Bagless policy is not nationwide

Walmart stores in Maine are going bagless because of a new state law. It does not apply to every Walmart store in the U.S.

In 2019, Maine Gov. Janet Mills, a Democrat, signed a bill into law that targets single-use plastic bags, according to the Natural Resources Council of Maine. The law is a statewide ban on the distribution of single-use plastic shopping bags at all grocery stores, retail stores, restaurants and seasonal or temporary stores or markets. Retailers must provide reusable or paper bags.

The law is set to go into effect July 1, according to the Maine Department of Environmental Protection.

"With that ban soon taking effect, Walmart is converting all Maine stores to bagless on July 1," Charles Crowson, Walmart's communications director for the northern U.S., said in an email to USA TODAY.

Crowson said this decision aligns with the company’s  existing sustainability initiatives.

"A similar initiative began in Vermont four months ago and was well-received by customers there. However, there isn’t a national rollout planned at this time," Crowson said.

Our rating: True

The claim that Maine Walmart stores are going bagless on July 1 is TRUE, based on our research. The original version of this post was misleading, and thousands of people got the wrong idea about the scope of this policy. But the updated article accurately notes the decision to go bagless applies only to stores in Maine, based on a new state law that prohibits the use of single-use plastic bags. There is no impact on other U.S. stores.

Our fact-checking sources:

  • Moose 92 FM, June 7, updated June 10 or 11, Maine Walmarts are Going Bagless July 1st
  • Walmart, Feb. 22, Somewhere Beyond the Plastic Bag Lies the Future of Retail
  • Vermont Business Magazine, Jan. 1, Walmart to go 'bagless' February 15
  • National Resources Council of Maine, accessed June 9, Reusable Bag Ordinance Toolkit
  • Office of Governor Janet T. Mills, accessed June 9, About the Governor
  • Maine Department of Environmental Protection, accessed June 9, Plastic Bag and Plastic Film Recycling
  • Maine Department of Environmental Protection, accessed June 9, GUIDANCE ON SINGLE-USE PLASTIC CARRY-OUT BAG BAN
  • CBS 13, June 8, Walmart stores across Maine are going bagless
  • Charles Crowson, June 10, Email exchange with USA TODAY

Thank you for supporting our journalism. You can subscribe to our print edition, ad-free app or electronic newspaper replica here.

Our fact check work is supported in part by a grant from Facebook.

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Policy walmart bag

Walmart is one of the most popular stores in the U.S., but it's not just the big box store's wide variety of offerings that have made it such a beloved shopping destination. The store's consistency—from the products it carries to its signature branding—have made it a reliable retail destination for shoppers for decades. However, the chain is about to implement a major chain in certain stores in the near future that may mean significant changes for your shopping experience. Read on to discover what may be disappearing from your local Walmart soon.

RELATED: This One Thing Is Disappearing From 300 Walmart Stores.

plastic walmart bag in shopping cart

In an effort to curb waste, Walmart stores in the state of Maine will be going bagless starting next month.

"The initiative is going into place in Maine as of July 1," Charles Crowson, Walmart's director of communications for northern U.S. confirmed to Best Life.

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walmart bag recycling bin

In 2019, Maine Governor Janet Mills passed a bill strictly limiting the use of plastic bags in the New England state. Enforcement of the bill was initially intended to begin on April 22, 2020, but was pushed back to Jan. 2021 due to COVID, and once again to July 1, 2021.

The bill states that, "No retail establishment may distribute a single-use plastic shopping bag," including grocery stores, retail stores, restaurants, seasonal stores, and temporary stores and markets. Stores can still provide recyclable paper bags or reusable plastic bags for five cents or more, as long as the bag is made from at least 20 percent recycled material. Stores in Maine can also continue to provide plastic produce bags, but they must also provide a receptacle for those bags to be collected for recycling.

woman using walmart sefl checkout

The decision to go bagless in Maine follows a similar plan rolled out in Vermont Walmart stores on Feb. 15, 2021.

"A similar initiative began in Vermont about six months ago and has been well-received by customers there," a Walmart spokesperson told the Ellsworth American of the plans to go bagless in Maine.

reusable walmart bag

While Walmart's bagless stores are growing in number, that doesn't necessarily mean you'll see these changes implemented across the country anytime soon.

"This is not an initiative that is going into place nationwide," explained Crowson.

However, Walmart has teamed up with other retailers and investors to create a sustainable alternative to the conventional plastic bag.

"Because Walmart has set an aspirational zero waste goal, we have joined the 'Beyond the Bag' initiative as a Founding Partner to accelerate innovation for much-needed solutions. With funding from Walmart, Target and CVS Health, this three-year initiative is led by Closed Loop Partners with the goal of identifying, testing and implementing viable design solutions and models that more sustainably serve the purpose of the current retail bag," Anna Vinogradova, Walmart's director of sustainability said in a statement.

RELATED: This One Thing Is Disappearing From Walmarts Nationwide.

Sarah Crow

Sarah Crow is a senior editor at Eat This, Not That!, where she focuses on celebrity news and health coverage. Read more

VERIFY: Walmart is not going to stop using plastic bags at all U.S. stores on July 1

This Major Walmart Rumor is False, Company Says

A rumor that Walmart is getting rid of bags starting on July 1 has been circulating around the internet since early June, but it's false…kind of. Yes, America's largest grocery chain is technically not providing customers with single-use plastic bags, but only in one state.

One story about the ban racked up thousands of comments and shares on social media, but made no mention of the important detail that only customers in Maine will have to bring reusable bags or opt for a paper one from now on, USA Today says. The story posted by a radio station in Maine even had Walmart employees fooled. One reportedly posted: "Starting July 1st we are going bagless at every Walmart…Bring your own bags and remember we just work here so try to hold back your frustration just a bit."

Related: This Is the Best Supermarket in America, New Survey Says

In 2019, Maine Gov. Janet Mills signed a bill that places a ban on single-use plastic bags at all grocery and retail stores, restaurants, and other markets. "With that ban soon taking effect, Walmart is converting all Maine stores to bagless on July 1," the Walmart communications director, Charles Crowson, told USA Today, noting it fits in with the company's sustainability efforts. (These have been criticized recently, though.)

He added that a nationwide rollout is not in the cards right now, but other states are making a push to also get rid of plastic bags. "A similar initiative began in Vermont four months ago and was well-received by customers there," Crowson said.

Other Rollouts are happening from coast to coast, though. The CEO of Walmart U.S. recently said price cuts and deals on summer favorites are the top priority right now in order to keep people shopping post-pandemic.

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Amanda McDonald

Amanda is a staff writer for Eat This, Not That!. Read more


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Somewhere Beyond the Plastic Bag Lies the Future of Retail

Woman with Reusable Bag Animation

Feb. 22, 2021
By Jane Ewing, Senior Vice President, Sustainability

Globally, people use about 1 trillion plastic bags a year, and each bag has a dismally short lifespan of as little as 12 minutes. Fewer than 10% of them are recycled in the U.S., and single-use plastic bags continue to be one of the top ten items found along beaches and waterways. This is a massive challenge we must approach as an industry. As we all know, however, true innovation is rarely immediate.

Last summer, we set out on the path to look beyond the plastic retail bag and identify solutions that could serve a similar function, while delivering convenience for customers and lessening the environmental impact. Through our engagement in the Beyond the Bag Initiative, and our own endeavors in Mexico and Vermont, we’re working hard to accelerate the pace of innovation and viable, sustainable solutions.

Reusable Plastics Graphic

Beyond the Bag Innovation Challenge Winners

In 2020, Walmart joined Closed Loop Partners’ “Beyond the Bag” effort as a Founding Partner, along with Target and CVS Health. Since then, the consortium has welcomed additional support from other retailers, including Kroger, The TJX Companies, Inc., Dollar General, DICK'S Sporting Goods and more. The Beyond the Bag Challenge, launched with global design firm IDEO, received a host of extraordinary ideas from all around the world. Solutions centered around novel technologies, leveraging the internet of things to connect customers to circular bag systems in-store or at home. Other proposals brought innovative materials, or built on existing ones, to drive alternative solutions to single-use plastic bags.

Upon thorough reviews by retail partners, environmental advisers and subject matter experts, we’re thrilled to share that what began as more than 450 submissions ultimately became nine winners:

  • ChicoBag: A low- to no-cost reusable solution for those prone to forgetfulness.
  • Eon: Powering the connected circular bag with CircularID, creating the systems and operations to incentivize circularity.
  • SmartC: A smart tag-and-bag system built for the digital generation.
  • Domtar: Strong, light and stretchable – this is the better paper bag.
  • Fill it Forward: Give back, track your impact, earn rewards and never forget the bag you already own.
  • GOATOTE: Enabling access to clean, reusable bags no matter where, when or how you shop.
  • PlasticFri: Their Starch-Based Compostable Bag is made from agricultural waste.
  • Returnity: Reusable packaging solutions that scale through smart-system deployment.
  • Sway: Seaweed-derived replacements for single-use plastic bags.

Winners will receive a portion of $1 million in non-equity funding and are eligible for additional funding and support from Consortium Partners to help with testing, piloting and scaling efforts. We look forward to piloting some of the winning solutions. While these are in development, we remain committed to taking our own operations beyond the bag wherever we can. Let’s take a look.

Plastic to Reusable Bags on Carousel Animation

Bagless in Mexico

Walmart Mexico y Centroamerica is going bagless. As regulations continued changing, we knew we’d have to stop offering plastic bags. But instead of offering yet another single-use solution, we made the decision to go fully bagless and encourage our customers to look to reusable bags. By the end of December 2020, over 72% of our stores in Mexico weren’t providing plastic bags.

Vermont pilot

We’ve just launched a bagless pilot in Vermont that underlines our commitment to achieving zero waste and ultimately moving toward a circular economy where the materials we use stay in use. With 78% of our Vermont customers supporting bagless options, this is an opportunity to understand how we can meet their needs and honor our commitment to sustainability. Key learnings from the final outcome of the pilot will be used to determine future direction for our company’s bagless efforts.

The future of the retail bag and how you can help

Again, big change can’t happen in a vacuum. It takes all of us, engaging with new ideas and trying new things with a common cause in mind. It’s that very reason we invite our associates and customers to play a role in working toward sustainability. Small actions ladder up to big impact – from carrying a reusable water bottle and recycling used plastic bags in many of our stores to bringing your own reusable bag when you shop. Bonus: If you are a Walmart+ member, don’t forget your reusable bags so when you use mobile scan & go, you can save time (and plastic) as you scan, pay and go on your way!

We’re committed to a more sustainable way of doing business, and we believe that somewhere out there, beyond the bag, lies a brighter, cleaner future. If you are interested in learning more about recycling, check out The Recycling Partnership’s Top Ten Recycling Facts.


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