Walmart Won't Provide Single-Use Bags at Over 200 Stores, as of Jan. 1

Expect to purchase reusable bags at some locations if you didn't bring your own.

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If you've shopped at Walmart for a while, you've undoubtedly noticed some changes over the years. The company has redesigned stores and added perks for regular customers—while even making sure they've stayed up to date with the latest technology. Despite the subtle transformations, the retailer is still known for its everyday low prices and rollback sales that can make it easy to save money on everyday essentials. But now, your Walmart visits might start to change even more: The company soon won't provide single-use bags at over 200 stores. Read on to learn more about the policy that's coming in the new year.

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Walmart will stop providing single-use bags in certain stores starting in January.

Walmart shopping cart with bag and receipt in Walmart store
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Getting your items from the store to your car and then into your home can be tricky without something to carry them in. But now, Walmart says it will no longer provide customers in its Colorado stores single-use bags at checkout, The Daily Sentinel reports.

"Beginning Sunday, Jan. 1, 2023, Walmart stores in Colorado will no longer provide single-use plastic or paper bags at checkout or pickup. Delivery will shift to paper bags," Lauren Willis, global communications director for Walmart in the western U.S., said in a statement. "We are working hard to ensure a seamless and convenient shift to reusable bags for our customers and associates. Eliminating single-use bags is part of our commitment to achieve zero waste across our operations and ultimately shift gradually toward a circular economy built on advancing reuse, refill, and recycling habits."

However, customers won't be left without an option to help them tote their goods. "While we encourage customers to bring their own reusable options from home when shopping in-store, reusable bags are available starting at $0.33 for those who wish to purchase one," Willis told Best Life.

More than 200 Walmart locations will have the new policy in place as of Jan. 1.

HDR image, Walmart check out lane, cash register paying customer, shopping cart - Saugus, Massachusetts USA - April 2, 2018
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But Colorado Walmart stores aren't the only the latest locations to see the change implemented. To date, the company has already gotten rid of single-use bags in Vermont, Maine, and New Jersey. When Colorado adds its 105 locations to the list, a total of 206 Walmart stores will have the new rules in place, according to data from Statista.

The changes come as the company's latest efforts to fulfill one of its eco-friendly initiatives that it launched in 2020. "A shopping bag is at the center of the final interaction of almost every in-store purchase—be that your weekly grocery trip, a quick milk run, or back-to-school shopping," Walmart wrote on its blog announcing the program. "While the convenience of the plastic retail bag cannot be disputed, the average working life of one of these bags is only 12 minutes. It's estimated that 100 billion plastic bags are being used annually in the U.S. alone, and less than 10 percent of them are recycled."

"Because Walmart has set an aspirational zero waste goal, we have joined the 'Beyond the Bag' initiative as a Founding Partner to accelerate innovation for much-needed solutions," the company wrote. "With funding from Walmart, Target, and CVS Health, this three-year initiative is led by Closed Loop Partners with the goal of identifying, testing, and implementing viable design solutions and models that more sustainably serve the purpose of the current retail bag," adding that the companies had collectively committed $15 million to the initiative.

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A new law will soon be in effect in Colorado that addresses single-use plastics.

Woman hold the plastic bags and walk on the street in the park
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The company's latest policies may align with its earth-conscious goals, but there are also changes afoot in Colorado that may have made them necessary. Last year, the state signed a new law known as the Management of Plastic Products Bill that limits the use of single-use plastic items. On top of setting the 10-cent fee on non-reusable paper and plastic bags, the legislation will also ban polystyrene containers used for take-out food when it goes into effect in 2024, The Daily Sentinel reports.

The law also stipulates that six cents of every dime generated by the surcharge will go to local recycling and composting programs. The rest of the fee will go towards businesses to help recoup the costs in sustainable to-go materials. However, any store with three or fewer locations within Colorado will be exempt from the rule. Any customer who shows proof of being on a federal or state food assistance program will also have the fee waived.

Walmart is experimenting with other eco-friendly ways to reduce plastic bag waste.

walmart shoppers walking in store
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While Walmart locations may be dropping single-use bags for now, the solution might look quite different in the future. In 2021, the retailer announced that one of its stores in Mountain View, California, had begun piloting a new system called GOATOTE. The program works by using an app to "check out" reusable bags that could be used for free so long as they're returned to the store within 30 days. After that, anyone who chooses to keep their bags will be charged $2.

"The way I talk about technology is this: We can be the difference," Renardo Page, the store's manager, said of the company in light of the successful pilot. "If we play our part, we can help roll something out to the nearly 5,000 stores in our company where we can lead—we can truly innovate."

CORRECTION: Walmart is getting rid of single-use bags entirely at Colorado stores. An earlier version of this story misstated Walmart's policy. We regret the error.

Zachary Mack
Zach is a freelance writer specializing in beer, wine, food, spirits, and travel. He is based in Manhattan. Read more
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