Aldi launches in-store recycling scheme for problem plastics

Soft and flexible plastics from all brands will be accepted

The collection bins have been added to 20 Aldi UK stores across Yorkshire, Derbyshire and Greater Manchester this week, as the supermarket considers what a broader roll-out could look like.

Under the scheme, customers will be encouraged to return packaging such as including crisp packets, salad bags, bread bags and carrier bags from all brands. The materials will then be sent to an as-yet-undisclosed recycling partner, who, in partnership with Aldi, will establish the best course of action for recycling.

Some 215 billion pieces of flexible plastic packaging are placed on the UK market every year and that almost all of this material (94%) is sent to landfill or incineration because fewer than one-fifth of local authorities have the capacity to collect from homes and businesses at kerbside. This is largely because existing mechanical recycling infrastructure is not compatible with the material. New mechanical and chemical innovations may help address this challenge.

Aldi UK has said that the collection points will be added to its full portfolio of more than 900 UK stores if the trial proves successful. The firm’s plastics and packaging director Richard Gorman called the trial “another step in the right direction” under its broader plastics plan, headlined by commitments to ensure that all own-brand packaging is recyclable, reusable or compostable by 2022; and to halve plastic packaging by weight by 2025.

“In future years local authorities will collect this material for recycling, but, in the meantime, supermarkets are able to provide recycling points for plastic bags and wrapping to the many citizens who want to recycle all that they can,” WRAP’s strategic engagement manager Helen Bird said.

Other supermarkets to have announced in-store collection points for flexible plastics this year include Sainsbury’s and Tesco. The Sainsbury’s scheme is a trial, covering 63 stores in North East England, while Tesco has forged ahead with plans to add points to all 171 of its large stores in Wales and South West England.

Ocean plastic take-back

In related news, meal kit brand HelloFresh has announced a new partnership with Plastic Bank, through which it will finance systems for collecting and recycling ocean-bound plastic.

Under the partnership, three plastic collection centres will be set up in Indonesia. The staff at these bases will be tasked with removing plastics from locations through which the material could enter oceans and waterways. In return, they will receive investment in education, health, water and food infrastructure.

The centres should collect the equivalent of 37.5 million plastic bottles (750,000kg of material) over a three-year period. The collected materials are recycled and used to make new products and packaging, with blockchain used to verify the material’s origin and journey through the supply chain.

At the same time, some 560 families will reap the financial and wellbeing benefits of working at the centres. Plastic Bank describes its approach as one that can create “ethical plastics”.

Other Plastic Bank business partners include The Body Shop, Marks & Spencer and SC Johnson.

For HelloFresh, the announcement comes hot on the heels of a commitment to halve food waste by 2022.

Sarah George

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