The sluggish economy still strains many families’ budgets, but people will always spend on their pooch or kitty. Our feline and canine companions are a big business: the pet supplies industry in the United States is worth over $10 billion a year. Consumers spoil their pets with everything from beds to toys to leashes—and then we have the purchase of necessities like medicine and food.
Not all pets are fortunate enough to poach an old sheepskin rug (see pictured), so there is demand for dog beds, scratching posts, and kitty litter pans and liners. Now Walmart will sell these supplies, along with other products, starting this month through a partnership with Worldwise. The new retail line will the end result of a closed-loop system that takes waste from Walmart’s stores and “upcycles” it into new pet products that retail in Walmart stores’ pet departments.
Since 1990, Worldwise has manufactured pet products out of recycled, reclaimed, renewable, and organic materials. The partnership with Walmart is a huge coup for the San Rafael-based firm, which hauls old plastic bottles, clothes hangers, plastic bags, and corrugated cardboard from various store locations, and then creates new products from trash that otherwise would have ended up in a landfill.
Worldwise’s line of PlanetPooch dog beds alone should reuse about 25 million plastic bottles sold at Walmart and Sam’s Club stores, and if all goes as planned, the entire product line should increase that amount to 100 million. Some may pooh-pooh this initiative along with Walmart’s overall sustainability plan, but this is one of many necessary steps that large retailers can take to improve their waste diversion programs. One extreme is to just send these bottles to the landfill, the other is to ban plastic bottles altogether—and the latter will never happen. Some will protest that the program really does not reduce consumption since companies are only making more “stuff” . . . but a ten or fifteen year delay in sending trash to the landfill is a more attractive option than immediately pitching all those bottles to the trash—and in the meantime, we have a smidge of job creation.
If the Walmart-Worldwise partnership succeeds–and Walmart will benefit from the public relations messaging because Worldwise will not be mentioned on any of the products’ labeling–watch for other vendors and retailers that currently dismiss the appeal of recycled and upcycled products to follow in Walmart’s footsteps.