Daniel Baker, ALDI Australia’s Corporate Responsibility Director, explains the company’s new packaging commitments and the complexities of the grocery supply chain.
When ALDI entered the Australian market in 2001, the concept of not offering single-use plastic bags was novel. By 2019, Coles, Woolworths and IGA had all followed suit.
Daniel Baker, ALDI Australia Corporate Responsibility Director, says over 18 years of not providing single-use plastic bags has diverted 40,000 tonnes of plastic from the environment. He adds that this is one of many effective choices in the company’s history of sustainability and waste reduction.
In 2013, ALDI became the first supermarket to offer a national battery recycling scheme and, to date, has recycled 356 tonnes of battery waste. Additionally, in 2018 the company banned all products containing microbeads from their stores.
Progressing ALDI’s history of waste reduction and recycling was a driving force behind the company’s recent commitment to a range of ambitious packaging targets, the cornerstone of which is a 25 per cent reduction in packaging by 2025.
The issue of supermarkets and unnecessary plastic packaging is a familiar one, and while the rise is often attributed to demand for grab and go options, public opinion appears to favour cutting back.
According to Daniel, reducing the use of plastic packaging therefore makes environmental and economic sense.
“We are committed to operating responsibly and providing value, without cutting corners or compromising the way we do business,” Daniel says.
“We have a responsibility to our customers, employees, business partners and local community to develop best practice and uphold responsible business practices. We are also a privately-held company, which means there is internal drive to make smart, long-term decisions.”
In addition to a quarter reduction in packaging by 2025, ALDI has committed to phasing out unnecessary single-use plastics by 2020, in line with the National Packaging Targets.
Similarly, Daniel says ALDI will ensure 100 per cent of their exclusive range is reformulated to be recyclable, reusable or compostable by the end
“We’ve also made positive changes to packaging solutions implemented in our stores, including introducing 100 per cent recycled and recyclable packaging for our Green Action Laundry Liquid and Wool Wash, removing over 11 million single-use plastic forks from our noodles bowls and cups and reformulating our zucchini packaging to use 87 per cent less plastic,” Daniel says.
Progression towards these targets will be publicly reported against from 2020.
“This will allow us to track and measure progress, identify what is working and what isn’t and, most importantly, reporting will keep ALDI and its partners on track to progress sustainable solutions,” Daniel explains.
“We recognise our commitments cannot be achieved without building true partnerships with all stakeholders to ensure the necessary changes are made that lead our business into a more sustainable future.”
Making sweeping changes to packaging rates is significant for a supermarket, as it requires multiple businesses to alter their products and practices. Daniel says ALDI will therefore work to achieve these goals in close collaboration with suppliers, which will ensure they have the necessary means to make appropriate changes within their own supply chains.
“When it comes to packaging changes, we’re working collaboratively with the Australian Packaging Covenant Organisation to tackle the challenges of packaging in a holistic manner,” Daniel says.
“Having been through the process to set our own commitments, we understand the complexity of the modern groceries supply chain and the need to develop a circular economy in Australia.”
Daniel says despite wanting to remove plastics immediately, the process cannot happen overnight.
He says commitments have been made in consideration of ALDI’s responsibility towards the environments of their end-to-end supply chain.
“We understand meeting the commitments may require re-working how we have previously done things and we appreciate our suppliers will be integral to our collective progress towards our commitments.”
According to Daniel, ALDI intends to approach implementation through a three-step process.
“ALDI will first look to reduce packaging, before considering what can be reused and finally, how to ensure necessary packaging can be recycled easily,” he explains.
“To do this, we aim to reduce our reliance on plastic and stimulate the development of a circular economy, with a focus on sourcing recycled content.”
ALDI will aim to stimulate the Australian recycling sector by including 30 per cent recycled materials in all their plastic packaging by the end of 2025. The company will also transition to using the Australasian Recycling Label on all ALDI-branded products by the end of 2022.
ALDI has also committed to reduce packaging in their fresh produce range, while providing no increase in food waste.
Furthermore, Daniel says by the end of 2020, all paper and pulp-based packaging in ALDI’s everyday range will be either Forest Stewardship Council certified, Programme for the Endorsement of Forest certified or 70 per cent recycled.
“When it comes to problematic materials, such as black plastics, ALDI’s priority is to reduce the use of these materials and find more sustainable alternatives – we’ve already implemented this in our produce range,” Daniel says.