BENTONVILLE -- Walmart Inc. is taking new steps aimed at making it easier for customers to make sustainable choices whether they're buying online or in stores, the company said Wednesday.
Of the hundreds of millions of packages Walmart ships each year, nearly all orders previously shipped in plastic mailers will now go out in recyclable brown paper bag mailers.
This move is expected to eliminate more than 2,000 tons of plastic from circulation in the United States by the end of January, the company said.
Also, customers will soon be able to opt out of having their online pickup orders placed in single-use plastic bags.
"Early tests indicate promising adoption rates and potentially helping eliminate millions of single-use bags each year from circulation," Walmart said. The company expects to have the new option available to customers nationwide by year's end. Walmart didn't say whether pickup orders will be placed in paper bags or some other alternative.
"Our commitment to regeneration is core to who we are and how we innovate at Walmart," said Karisa Sprague, senior vice president of fulfillment network operations for Walmart U.S. "Customers have told us how excited they are about these enhancements to make it easier for them to make more sustainable choices that support the planet and the next generation."
The Bentonville-based retailer also said it will reduce the amount of cardboard used to ship products to customers with new packaging technology in about half of its fulfillment network.
Eliminating unused space in the box will reduce the need for filler by 60% and cut waste caused by oversized boxes by 26%, the company said.
And customers shopping online can ask that multiple items be consolidated into fewer boxes, which would reduce waste as well as the number of shipments.
Walmart said it now uses artificial intelligence to identify when an item bought online can be fulfilled from stores instead of fulfillment centers. This cuts both the number of miles driven and the number of boxes used for shipping, the company said.
To ship items more sustainably from stores to customers' homes, Walmart combines multiple orders on single delivery routes and delivers them using electric vans, the company said.
This speeds up delivery times for customers and reduces fleet miles and emissions, Walmart said.
The company has committed to achieve zero emissions throughout its operations by 2040.
Earlier on Wednesday, Walmart shareholders held their annual business meeting. It was held virtually for the fourth year in a row.
Shareholders elected all 11 nominees for Walmart's board of directors. They are: Cesar Conde; Timothy Flynn; Sarah Friar; Carla Harris; Thomas Horton; Marissa Mayer; Douglas McMillon; Gregory Penner; Randall Stephenson; Rob Walton; and Steuart Walton.
They also approved the compensation of Walmart's top executives, and ratified the appointment of Ernst & Young LLP as Walmart's independent accountants.
The nine proposals submitted by shareholders were rejected. The board recommended their rejection in Walmart's annual proxy statement.
Final voting results will appear in a report to be filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission.