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Wal-Mart's Sustainable Packaging Program Is Top of Mind for Consumer Industry Suppliers

Wal-Mart's Packaging Scorecard has been the talk of the consumer goods industry since it started forcing changes in their suppilers' packaging processes.

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New metrics in the next version will be announced April 13, 2010 at a Wal-Mart Sustainable Packaging Expo in Bentonville, AR. It is expected to allow vendors to average and adjust packaging design and production across wider ranges. Tires, for example, a major category for the retailer, don't arrive in packages, carrying only labels, which would be difficult to cut back significantly. Until then Wal-Mart will make no changes in the score card questions, she pledged.

Wal-Mart stores and Sam's Club have implemented the same sustainable packaging programs, but suppliers like Zettlemoyer-Lazar said major the roll-outs of sustainable packaging efforts can be tested at Sam's Club, a smaller test environment that allows for more manageable and controlled testing.

Wal-Mart's sustainable packaging initiative doesn't only affect suppliers. These market-implemented compliance standards also reach into the suppliers' suppliers like printing industry suppliers including Sun Chemical, xpedx, Boise, MeadWestvaco (MWV), Gans Ink, Komori, label printing and packaging firms, and label and converting equipment suppliers, and robotics and materials handling companies.

Diamond Packaging features a notable commitment to green practices. In 2008 the company launched its "Green Box" initiative, a comprehensive approach to minimize the environmental impact of its products by focusing on the designs, materials and methods used in their production process. The packaging firm also plans to buy 100% of its electrical energy from wind power.

Diamond's design process incorporates tools such as Wal-Mart's package modeling software and ArtiosCAD for structural design, to make greener packaging.

Some of the most basic concepts of greener packaging are reduced thickness and square inches of packaging materials used -- to reduce raw materials as well as weight and size that increase transportation impacts such as fuel, emissions and wear and tear of vehicle components. Use of lower VOC printing inks, plastics and coatings are also important aspects of reducing the environmental impact of packaging.

Edited by Carolyn Allen, owner/editor of California Green Solutions
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