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Our commitment to reducing plastic waste

April 22, 2024 |4 minute read time

Small child touching a plastic bottle in the grass

Every April we recognize Earth Day and the collective work needed to create a healthier world for future generations. Dedicated to awareness of plastic pollution, the 2024 Earth Day theme is planet versus plastics. It draws attention to plastic waste and the fact that 380 million tons of plastic are produced every year worldwide — while only 9% of plastic ever produced has been recycled.

It’s not exactly an easy fix, but we’re working to be a part of the solution.

Our commitment to sustainable health solutions

Many studies show the health of our planet affects the health of people, which is why we continue to invest in initiatives and programs that focus on improving the health of our planet. We are advancing our sustainability commitments and addressing the environmental factors that contribute to health inequities.

The growing amount of microplastics and plastic waste impacts human health through the air we breathe, the water we drink and the food we eat. As we continue working to address the environmental challenges single-use plastic has on the health of the people we serve, we are also playing a balanced role in acknowledging that plastic is needed for safe care delivery and product quality. As a result, we’re continually testing potential solutions that address both issues.

Our plastic goals put us on a path toward a Healthier 2030

  • Reduce plastic use in our operations by 50%
  • Reduce single-use virgin plastic in store brand packaging by 50%
  • Ensure all store brand packaging is 100% reusable, recyclable or compostable

How CVS Health is reducing plastic pollution

We’re working to address the plastic use in our company by eliminating or using less plastic wherever we can, and replacing plastic with alternative sustainable materials. We are also identifying new methods of increasing recyclability and safer end-of-use disposal of the materials we use, and we encourage our suppliers and customers to join us to be part of the solution. Our efforts include:

  • Thinking beyond the bag: Through our multi-year collaboration with the Consortium to Reinvent the Retail Bag, which is managed by the Center for the Circular Economy at Closed Loop Partners, we’re looking for ways to reinvent the retail bag and continue to test programs.
  • Reimagining over-the-counter medication packaging: We launched Cabinet in over 700 stores nationwide, offering customers a refillable and compostable choice for over-the-counter medication packaging. We were the first brick-and-mortar national retailer to offer Cabinet.
  • Changing medication bottles: We continue to assess ways to reduce the waste associated with plastic medication bottles. Over the past two years, we’ve piloted various alternative bottle materials and consumer takeback options. Our next iteration of tests is planned for 2024 and will aim to achieve greater simplicity for our colleagues and higher customer engagement.
  • Advancing specialty pharmacy: We’re actively exploring sustainable alternatives and optimizing shipping efficiencies, and we continue to seek out high-performance packaging alternatives to protect our patients’ orders. Additionally, we optimize our capabilities and network to reduce the distance between our patients and pharmacies, reducing our carbon footprint.
  • Thinking strategically about store brands: Working together with our store brand suppliers, we believe we can directly impact packaging for our products and improve the recyclability to ensure we are using the most sustainable options. In 2022, we joined forces with World Wildlife Fund and the organization’s activation hub, ReSource: Plastic, that focuses on reducing plastic waste and increasing the sustainability of materials within its packaging portfolio. ReSource: Plastic is a consortium of leading companies and organizations collaborating to address the planet’s plastic waste crisis driving high standards on plastic sourcing for the retail industry.

Our 2023 impact

  • Through our plastic bag store drop off recycling programs, we diverted 7.4 tons of plastic from going to landfill last year.
  • Through our plastic bottle and can store drop off recycling programs, we diverted 1.3 tons of plastic from going to landfill last year.
  • At of the end of 2023, we had added How2Recycle labeling to 63% of our store brand products to promote recycling and educate consumers on how a product should be recycled through clear and easily understood labeling.
  • In 2023, we completed our efforts to define a list of problematic or unnecessary packaging and began building a path to eliminate them by 2030 through innovative design and the use of alternative, more sustainable materials.
  • We finalized new packaging for our store brand nut items last year, moving from non-recyclable composite canisters to widely recyclable PET jars in 2024.

Learn more about additional ways we’re combating the plastic crisis and our ongoing work to create a sustainable future in our recent Healthy 2030 Impact Report and Appendix.

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