Aldi cracks down on plastic waste

Aldi is taking aim at plastic packaging with plans to ensure that packaging of all store-branded products is recyclable, reusable or compostable by 2022.
To keep plastic out of waterways, such as the Amsterdam canal pictured here, Aldi plans to ensure that packaging of all its store-branded products is recyclable, reusable or compostable, by 2022.

Aldi has become the latest leading supermarket to unveil wide-ranging new plans to crack down on plastic waste, pledging to ensure all the packaging for its own-brand products is recyclable, reusable or compostable by 2022.

The company announced earlier this month that it has signed on to a new cross-sector plastic waste initiative, which is being led by waste and resources non-profit WRAP and is set to be formally unveiled in the coming weeks.

As part of its commitment, Aldi said that in addition to switching to alternative packaging materials, it would end the distribution of 7-cent single-use plastic carrier bags. Instead, customers will be offered 12-cent reusable bags made from plastic waste collected from its own back-of-store operations.

The company also signaled that it would support "in principle" government plans for a deposit return scheme (DRS) for plastic bottles.

The U.K. Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (Defra) is conducting a call for evidence on how such a scheme could work, following evidence that a number of other European countries have delivered much higher plastic-bottle recycling rates after introducing a DRS.

Aldi said it was "assessing the feasibility of how such a scheme could be implemented."

"Our customers trust us not only to offer them high-quality products at unbeatable prices, but to help them lead healthier, better lives," Matthew Barnes, CEO of Aldi UK and Ireland, said in a statement. "That includes reducing waste, particularly around unnecessary packaging and plastics that damage the environment we live in."

Marcus Gover, CEO of WRAP, said plans are well underway for a wide-ranging new industry initiative to address growing concerns over plastic waste.

"Through WRAP's new ambitious, cross-sector initiative, which will be unveiled soon, we will work together with governments, citizens and business to transform the way we make, use and dispose of plastic so that we retain its value, particularly in reducing food waste, but prevent it from polluting the environment," he said.

Louise Edge, senior oceans campaigner at Greenpeace UK, said pressure was growing on the government to bring forward plans for a new plastic bottle DRS.

"Aldi now stands alongside Iceland, Tesco and Co-op as a fourth major British retailer to give its backing to a deposit return scheme for plastic drinks bottles," she said. "Gove should note Aldi's change of heart, and the overwhelming public support for this solution, and introduce a deposit return scheme for all plastic bottles, glass bottles and drinks cans without further delay." 

She also urged Aldi to ensure that its new plan goes beyond introducing recyclable plastic packaging and includes efforts to curb overall resource use.

"We look forward to hearing the detail behind the headline, and how much Aldi will be focusing on the reduction and reuse of packaging, as it is increasingly clear that plastics recycling alone won't clean up our oceans," she said. "We need a dramatic reduction in throwaway plastic packaging and we need it to start now. That's why we're calling on retailers to eliminate polluting plastic packaging completely from their own brand products."

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