Packaging progress: ALDI

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
of 2025.

“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.

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ALDI announces new packaging commitments

ALDI Australia has announced it will cut a quarter of all plastic packaging from its range by 2025, as part of a wide range of new packaging commitments.

ALDI Australia Managing Director Buying Oliver Bongardt made the announcement in front of 100 ALDI business partners at a supplier forum this week.

“In an act of transparency and authenticity, ALDI has committed to annually report on its progress towards this goal,” Mr Bongardt said.

“It’s our ambition to reduce the amount of plastic in our stores, while in parallel stimulating Australia’s circular economy and ensuring our business partners have commercially viable packaging options to reduce their reliance on virgin materials.”

Mr Bongardt said all single use plastics, such as cotton buds and plastic plates, will also be removed from ALDI stores by the end of 2020.

“Despite our desire, and that of our customers, to remove plastics immediately, this process will take years not weeks,” Mr Bongardt said.

“Today’s announcement is to clearly demonstrate that we are completely invested in the important journey of reducing waste, and we stand committed to quantify our progress over the coming years.”

Additionally, Mr Bongardt announced that ALDI had diverted six billion single-use plastic bags from entering the environment, the equivalent of 40,000 tonnes of soft plastic, since opening 18 years ago.

Mr Bongardt said ALDI acknowledged the pressure these commitments would place on their businesses and has resourced a team to support the transition.

In response to the announcement, Australian Packaging Covenant Organisation CEO Brooke Donnelly said ALDI was demonstrating that sustainable packaging could drive a range of positive commercial benefits.

“I’d like to acknowledge ALDI on their new sustainability commitments, which represent a significant contribution to sustainable packaging in Australia and an important milestone in our work to reach the 2025 National Packaging Targets,” Ms Donnelly said.

“It’s particularly impressive to see the process ALDI has undertaken to involve their suppliers, effectively bringing a range of businesses along on their sustainable packaging journey and delivering an efficient, cost effective approach to the entire supply chain.”

ALDI’s packaging commitments:

— Reduce plastic packaging by 25 per cent by 2025.

— Actively reduce the amount of plastic packaging in the fresh produce range and transition to more sustainable alternatives where possible, producing no increase in food waste.

— Phase out problematic and unnecessary single-use plastics by the end of 2020.

— Prioritise the reduction or replacement of difficult to recycle black plastic packaging.

— Make ALDI’s exclusive range packaging 100 per cent recyclable, reusable or compostable by the end of 2025.

— 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.

— Include, at minimum, 30 per cent recycled materials in plastic packaging by the end of 2025.

— Use the Australasian Recycling Label on all ALDI branded products by the end of 2022.

— Further educate customers on the importance of packaging waste reduction.

— Publicly report against all goals from 2020.

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New national targets set within 2025 packaging plan

New targets within the 2025 plan have been outlined alongside the launch of the Australasian Recycling Label.

The new targets aim to aim to increase the average recycled content within all packaging by 30 per cent and phase out problematic and unnecessary single-use plastic packaging through design, innovation or the introduction of alternatives.

Additionally, the targets aim to ensure 70 per cent of plastic packaging is recycled or composted.

These build on the previous announcement of a target to achieve 100 per cent of Australian packaging being recyclable, compostable or reusable by 2025.

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The targets build on commitments made by federal, state and territory environment ministers and the President for the Australian Local Government Association earlier in April this year.

Industry representatives and environmental groups support the targets including Aldi, ALGA, Amcor, Australia Post, Boomerang Alliance, Chep, Close the Loop, Coca-Cola Amatil, Coles, Detmold, Goodman Fielder, Lion, Metcash, Nestlé, Orora, Pact Group, Planet Ark, Redcycle, Simplot, Suez, Tetra Pak, Unilever, Veolia, Visy and Woolworths.

Woolworths General Manager, Quality and Sustainability Alex Holt highlighted the importance of this collaboration.

“We’re really pleased to see such a wide range of industry players come together in support of such a worthy goal. Moving towards a circular economy won’t be easy, but we have the right mix of organisations on board to help make it a reality,” Mr Holt said.

Federal Environment Minister Melissa Price congratulated the Australian Packaging Covenant Organisation (APCO) and the initial working group of businesses that are supporting the targets.

Minister Price has also officially launched the Australasian recycling Label to help achieve the 2025 National Packaging Targets, developed by Planet Ark, PREP Design and APCO to help consumers better understand how to recycle packaging.

“The Australasian Recycling Label provides people with easy to understand recycling information when they need it most, in those few seconds when they are deciding what bin the package goes in. The label removes confusion and reduces waste,” Ms Price said.

With more than 200 recycling labels currently being used in Australia, the new system aims to reduce confusion and contamination in the waste stream.

Nestlé Head of Corporate and External Relations Oceania Margaret Stuart said the inclusion of the label on Netslé’s packaging was a demonstration of the company’s commitment to sustainability.

“More and more people who buy our products want to know how to manage packing waste, so we have committed to implementing the Australasian Recycling Label across all our locally controlled products by 2020,” Ms Stuart said.

Unilever ANZ CEO Clive Stiff has said the announcements are a critical step towards greater collective action on increasing the nationals recycling capability.

“Plastic packaging waste represents an $80 billion loss to the global economy every year. The benefits of the circular economy approach are clear for business and the environment – the more effective use of materials means lower costs and less waste,” Mr Stiff said.

“We are proud to have recently announced that bottles of popular Unilever products like OMO, Dove, Sunsilk, Surf and TRESemmé will soon be made with at least 25% Australian recycled plastic.

“This is just the start for us and no business can create a circular economy in isolation. Heavy lifting is needed from all players involved – suppliers, packaging converters, brand owners, policy makers and retailers, collectors, sorters and recyclers. We need a complete shift in how we think about and use resources.”