Aldi begins black plastics phase-out as part of packaging overhaul

Discount chain Aldi is switching a range of its fresh produce packaging from hard-to-recycle black plastic to clear, recyclable alternatives, in a move that is set to save around 265 tonnes of plastic a year.

The supermarket has announced that it will introduce the new plastic trays to six of its fresh fruit and vegetable lines by the end of this month, as it strives towards a 2025 goal of ensuring all of its own-brand packaging is recyclable, reusable or compostable.

Aldi has additionally redesigned its range of plastic pasta pots to include 95% post-consumer recycled (PCR) content – a move it claims will prevent the use of 139 tonnes of virgin plastic annually.

“Cutting waste is part of Aldi’s DNA and we have a longstanding commitment to minimise our impact on the environment,” Aldi’s managing director of corporate responsibility Fritz Walleczek said.

“One part of that is to prevent plastic going to landfill by using materials that are easier to recycle – like these clear trays – but also to ensure that there is a demand for recycled plastic by using it in products like our pasta pots.”

The clear, recyclable packaging has already been rolled out to Aldi’s piccolo tomatoes, specially selected sunstream tomatoes, specially selected mixed baby plum tomatoes and specially selected purple sprouting broccoli. The chain will now make the switch for its fresh baby corn and asparagus by the end of August.

Recycled is the new black

Black plastics suffer from notoriously low recycling rates, as machinery in recycling plants is rarely able to accurately spot black pigment and separate such items for shredding, melting and re-use.

However, Tesco, Sainsbury’s and Marks & Spencer (M&S) recently collaborated with recycling and packaging production firm Viridor to produce a solution for the material, enabling recycling plant technology to separate black plastic items for inclusion in food-grade packaging.

The solution is set to enable 120 tonnes of plastic to be recycled in the UK every month, after successful trials of kerbside waste collections from households across the UK proved there was a consistent black plastic waste stream.

Aldi joins the likes of the Co-opWaitrose and Quorn in publicly announcing plans to phase-out or reduce black plastic use, and has followed in the footsteps of companies such as Coca-Cola and Princes in its move to increase the PCR content of its packaging.

Elsewhere, the chain has already pledged to scrap 5p carrier bags by the end of this year and is set to replace them with reusable 9p bags-for-life made from back-of-store plastic waste.

It has additionally given its backing to a national deposit return scheme for plastic bottles, and is among a string of big-name retailers to have called for more recycling collection points, tax reliefs for recycled content and a universal list of acceptable materials as part of a desired regulation reform earlier this year.

Future-proofing business at Responsible Retail 2018

Solving key challenges – including modern slavery, supply chain involvement and the circular economy – will be some of the key themes of edie’s third annual Responsible Retail conference, taking place on 20 September 2018 at 99 City Road, London.

The full-day event has been designed for the retailers, sustainability professionals and key stakeholders that are looking for the information, insight and inspiration required to seize the sustainability opportunity.

Find out more about Responsible Retail 2018 and register to attend here.

Sarah George

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