Walmart, P&G and TerraCycle launch free recycling collection in the U.S.

© Fabio Bracht | Unsplash

Reducing waste and saving recyclable plastic packaging from landfills: with its pilot project “US Beauty Recycling Program,” retail giant Walmart is offering its customers the chance to bring empty packaging to participating stores for recycling. The pilot launched together with Procter & Gamble and TerraCycle is certainly a good approach. It will be interesting to see how the return rate develops. After all, without a deposit, there are no incentives….


At the heart of the “US Beauty Recycling Program” are 25 US Walmart locations in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Oklahoma and Arkansas. From now on, U.S. consumers can drop off their empty hair care, skin care and cosmetics packaging there free of charge as part of the pilot project.

Through the new program, Walmart aims to help reduce packaging waste and keep otherwise unrecycled plastic packaging out of landfills.


The partners

  • Global U.S. retailer Walmart Inc. dominates much of the U.S. market and is listed as the world’s top-selling company in the Fortune Global 500 list.
  • Procter & Gamble (P&G) is also a giant. Headquartered in Cincinnati, the consumer goods company sells its branded products in more than 180 countries worldwide.
  • TerraCycle is an innovative recycling company headquartered in Trenton, New Jersey. The company says it is the world leader in heavy recyclable materials.


The process

  1. consumers search for or store at a participating Walmart location.
  2. they collect their emptied hair care, skin care and cosmetics packaging instead of throwing it in the dumpsters as they have in the past.
  3. you then drop off the collected empties for recycling at special collection bins at one of the participating Walmart stores.
  4. there, the packaging is collected and transported to partner TerraCycle, where it is cleaned and separated by material type.
  5. TerraCycle subsequently recycles the materials into raw formats that can be used to make new products.


The key question

It will be exciting to follow whether the pilot is accepted by consumers. After all, experience shows that consumers tend to be lazy when their own commitment is the only driving force. Without a deposit, however, there are no incentives – apart from stroking one’s own conscience.

It is known from Europe, for example, that only a maximum of 5 percent of consumers remove the cardboard sleeve from (K3) yogurt pots before they end up in the yellow garbage can. And here we are talking about consumers who are willing to dispose of the cup in the correct collection container.

Despite this unpredictability, Walmart’s approach is commendable. It is a pilot project with the goal of closing the loop on plastic. And that is urgently needed.

The plan could certainly be upgraded with an incentive from retailers. A small “reward” would make it more attractive to consumers and have a positive impact on return rates.

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