Charleston, SC – Wal-Mart is the largest retailer in the world who sells the products that become litter along our waterways and on our beaches. Wal-Mart stores themselves also directly contribute to the litter problem. Because of the number of customers and employees outside their stores everyday, Wal-Mart’s direct litter contribution can only be estimated to be in millions of pieces.
On a Wal-Mart lot you will find sewers that empty directly into rivers and creeks without grating to trap the waste and prevent it from entering the water stream. Off the Wal-Mart property, you will find single use plastic bags hanging in trees and shrubs and every type of ground litter imaginable. Since 90% of all Americans live within 15 miles of a Wal-Mart store, almost every American is negatively impacted by Wal-Mart generated litter.
In 2005, Wal-Mart made a commitment to reduce the environmental impact of the products they sell. Reduced packaging is the main focus for this campaign. The biggest benefit however is to Wal-Mart itself and not the environment It will reduce the size of the littered pieces but not the number of pieces being littered. Wal-Mart benefits because of reduced shipping costs and increased shelf space smaller packages require.
Wal-Mart works hard to portray itself as patriotic, but in spite of its Buy American campaign, 80% of their hard goods merchandise are still manufactured in China. However, based on my observations, 80% of waterway litter comes from its American suppliers. Single use plastic bags, plastic beverage bottles and cans, Styrofoam coolers, and cigarettes are all manufactured in the United States.
Wal-Mart touts itself as being a green, environmentally friendly company, but if you look closely most of these efforts and the general focus of the company itself is self-serving and centered around cutting costs to help increase their overall profit. Things like cutting energy and water usage translates to immediately decreasing overhead costs and increasing bottom line profits. No doubt reducing their carbon footprint and water usage will benefit the environment, but as a for-profit company, their focus is on increasing net profit and the performance bonus for their CEO, Mike Duke.
Cleaning up Wal-Mart generated litter will not increase their profitability and
therefore is not a funding priority. We have tried to make it one, to no avail. Knowing that Wal-Mart did not want to spend any out-of-pocket money on waterway litter, we asked for a register collection to allow Wal-Mart customers to fund a “Wal-Mart” clean-up boat. Wounded Nature – Working Veterans was initially given permission by Andrea Thomas, Sr V.P. of Sustainability at Wal-Mart, to contact the store managers in the 14 coastal states our boats serve and conduct register collections on a regional basis. This approval was CC’ed in an the email from her to Wal-Mart America’s CEO, Bill Simon (a Navy veteran).
After Wounded Nature – Working Veterans had spent days recruiting volunteers, preparing a media list and writing out a press release for Wal-Mart’s approval, Andrea sent an email telling us to cease and desist on all fronts. “She informed us that the head of US Store Operations and the Division SVP for the Southeast region of the country did not want to open another date on their register collections calendar to fund a litter clean-up boat using veterans” states Rudy Socha, CEO of Wounded Nature – Working Veterans.
“When Wal-Mart states they have donated or spent time and money correcting a problem, the public and reporters should ask ‘How much did Wal-Mart spend on that?’” Remember Wal-Mart is a retailer that generated 440 billion dollars in gross sales last year and paid its CEO 18.1 million dollars. Bear those numbers in mind when evaluating Wal-Mart’s stated commitment to address a problem.
Wounded Nature – Working Veterans would like to hear from you. Do you shop at Wal-Mart? Would you be willing to donate to support a “Wal-Mart” boat to clean-up litter along our waterways and staffed by veterans? Do you think Wal-Mart should fund/brand a clean-up boat? You can send your reply directly to Wounded Nature’s CEO at firstname.lastname@example.org.