Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. has got a lot of cleaning up to do.
Recently, Walmart has been pushing a wide range of ‘green’ initiatives. They’ve been focusing on the environment very big, very public way.
One of their biggest initiatives is their effort to sell 100 Million Compact Fluorescent Light (CFL) bulbs — one for each of their estimated 100 million customers.
This is wonderful. If they meet this target, they will be pretty directly responsible for freeing up enough energy to provide power for 450,000 single family homes. We applaud them for this effort!
But there’s a catch, and it’s an important one. Every one of these 100 Million bulbs contains Mercury — a chemical poison that means the bulbs aren’t allowed to be thrown out in household trash. Instead, they need to be recycled using special procedures to ensure that Mercury stays out of landfills across America and around the world.
If Walmart is going to sell these bulbs, they should provide a way for their customers to recycle them. Putting brochures in their stores isn’t enough — they should provide some convenient, direct way for customers to recycle the bulbs. Otherwise, these bulbs will end up in local landfills where they could build up over time and require local communities to pay for clean up costs later. And the clean up costs would be huge.
As one of the biggest and most powerful corporations in the world, they literally make almost $1 Billion in profit each month. They exert a control over the manufacturing and retail industries unlike any other corporation.
It is the largest private employer in the world and world’s fourth largest utility or commercial employer, only trailing the People’s Liberation Army of China, the National Health Service of the United Kingdom and the Indian Railways.
They’ve also been the target of some dramatic criticism recently. The recent movie The High Cost of Low Prices chronicled in detail many of the company’s worst abuses.
For example, here’s some information from a recent article in the San Francisco Bay Guardian:
Five of the 10 richest people in the country are from the founding Walton family. But to help the company offer its proclaimed “Every Day Low Prices,” workers are paid an average of $17,530 a year, nearly $2,000 below the poverty level of a family of four. Almost half of the children of those associates are uninsured or on Medicaid.
Walmart has been doing some good things for the environment recently, and they deserve credit for that. Their 100 Million CFL bulb effort has gotten them a lot of press, including this interview on NPR, this article in Fast Company.
Is it too expensive?
Of course, the reason they don’t provide recycling already is that it costs too much. It will reduce profits.
But according to Wikipedia, they earn almost $1 Billion in profit each month. Clearly, they won’t lose money if provide a way for customers to recycle bulbs.
Other companies are helping consumers recycle products
Also, other companies provide similar services. IKEA, for example, provides recycling of CFL bulbs in each of their stores. Why doesn’t Walmart?
Sony, Dell, Apple and HP are all unveiling recycling programs to allow customers to recycle products they buy from them. Why doesn’t Walmart?
Walmart even held a recycling day in 5 US States and accepted CFL bulbs from customers for recycling. It was a single day, 8-hour event, but they took in a lot of bulbs.
Pressure from customers will be key in determining when they role it out permanently. They’ve announced no plans to do so as of yet. But, with pressure from us, I’m certain they will.
What should you do?
So what should you do?
Well, to begin with the first thing is to contact Walmart and tell them to Take Back the Mercury! If Walmart wants to sell 100 Million CFL bulbs they should arrange in-store recycling for the bulbs. It’s that simple.
Right now, the best contact information I have is this contact page on Walmart’s corporate site. For e-mail, this form is the best I can find.
I’d prefer more direct contact information — preferably to Andy Ruben, Vice President of Corporate Strategy/Sustainability for Walmart. If you have better contact information please leave it in the comments here and I’ll add it to this page. For now, here’s the contact info from their corporate contact page:
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