Last Friday, there was something noticeably different about Walmart stores in Canada: there were no plastic bags to be found.
Alas, this had nothing to do with supply chain shortages or a hiccup in logistics — after all, nobody does logistics better than Walmart.
Rather, the absence of plastic was Walmart’s “gift” to Canadians in order to mark the mega-chain’s celebration of Earth Day.
(Earth Day is not to be confused with Earth Hour. Earth Hour occurred last month. You were supposed to mark that 60 minutes by freezing in the dark. Isn’t environmentalism such fun?)
In any event, what was behind this move to eliminate plastic bags? Well, as far as we could tell, it was a heapin’ helpin’ of virtue signalling.
After all, Walmart shelves are groaning with the weight of plastic merchandise wrapped in plastic packaging. There are also still small transparent plastic bags in the produce section. So, eliminating plastic bags is not the tip of the plastic iceberg — it’s the tip of the tip, actually…
We reached out to Walmart and even visited the corporation’s head office but nobody was available to comment — which is a hell of a way to stage a media event!
However, we did come across a story on Walmart’s website written by Lindsay Flint, who is apparently the manager of store process and innovation implementation, whatever that is.
Here’s what Lindsay had to say:
This week, we will reach the exciting milestone of all Walmart Canada stores across the country eliminating single-use plastic shopping bags.
This is a big moment for our associates and our customers: making this change will help to prevent more than 680 million single-use plastic bags from entering circulation each year. For context – that’s enough bags to circle the world nearly 10x!
Leading this initiative with a cross-collaborative team has been masterclass in how passionate our associates and our customers are about regeneration.
There has been so much work and dedication across the business that has gone into Walmart eliminating single-use plastic shopping bags, and I’m so proud to be working for a company that shares my own personal values about sustainability. For me, it’s proof that your passion can be part of your work.
Growing up in Northwestern Ontario, surrounded by lakes and forests, I’ve always been a champion for the environment. Since my daughter’s birth, preserving the environment has become even more important for me – I want her to grow up with the same respect for and access to nature that I did. I’ve seen these values within our customers, too – it’s a big moment for all of us to see this change come to life at Walmart.
But hey, who knew anyone could be so passionate about plastic? Oh, by the way, since Lindsay grew up in Northwestern Ontario “surrounded by forests”, is that the new packaging solution at Walmart Canada these days — paper bags? No dice. But you can purchase a reusable cloth bag, ranging from 35 cents to $1.49.
Bottom line: as a private company, Walmart can do whatever the hell it wants — even inconvenience its customers if need be.
But methinks this plastic bag ban is less about saving the planet and more about creating a new profit centre vis-à-vis the sale of reusable cloth bags. To quote Greta Thunberg: “How dare you!”