Aldi pilots blister pack recycling as retailers are urged to join ‘game changing’ refill collaboration
Aldi is trialling a recycling scheme for medicine blister packs in the UK, in what it is calling a first among supermarkets.
And, elsewhere, a refillable packaging collaboration supported by Marks & Spencer (M&S) is seeking new retail and brand participants as it aims to offer alternatives to single-use packaging across 100 products by next summer.
At Aldi, customers will be encouraged to send back their empty medicine packets using a free postal service. These packets are not typically recycled in traditional processing plants as their multi-material nature – they usually include metal and plastics – makes them challenging to recycle.
The posted packaging will be managed by TerraCycle. Recycled metal will be used to make nuts and bolts. Plastics, meanwhile, will be used to create durable items like waste bins or outdoor furniture.
Freepost envelopes can be claimed via the Aldi website in the UK. Customers will be limited to two envelopes per month.
“Blister packs are a product that cannot currently be recycled at the kerbside and are instead disposed of in general waste, so we fully support this trial,” said WRAP’s senior specialist Adam Herriott.
“Being able to recycle this type of packaging into raw material, which can then be used for new products, is something we and our UK Plastics Pact members are working hard to achieve on a range of difficult-to-recycle plastics. We look forward to seeing the results of the trial.”
Aldi has already added collection points for soft and flexible plastics, which most UK councils do not collect from homes, to dozens of its British stores.
In tandem with scaling recycling offerings, the retailer is aiming to halve the volume of plastic packaging it uses on own-brand products in the UK and Ireland by 2025, against a 2019 baseline.
In related news, the ‘Reposit’ packaging refill scheme spearheaded by Beauty Kitchen has launched a new project aimed at enabling shoppers to buy products in pre-filled packaging in one place, then deposit the empty packaging for return in a different place if needed.
It has secured the support of M&S to do so, with the supermarket trialling the model with a range of eight homecare products across six stores. Products have been from the Ecover brand as well as Beauty Kitchen.
Now, the team behind Reposit have announced an ambition to scale the model to 100 products across 200 stores before the end of June 2024. Additional brands and retailers are being asked to register their interest by 30 October.
Reposit founder and director Stuart Chidley said collaboration is essential to “remove the barriers” to creating “a commercially, operationally and environmentally scalable reuse platform”.
Ecover and Beauty Kitchen have already worked to prepare for an expansion through their own platforms and through selected stockists’ stores and websites.
UK Research & Innovation’s (UKRI) Smart Sustainable Plastic Packaging Fund is financially supporting Reposit and environmental not-for-profit City to Sea is providing practical support including insight from consumer research.
City to Sea’s head of development Jane Martin said the scheme will be “game-changing”. She said: “This means that customers will be able to easily and accessibly pick up their favourite products in packaging that has already been refilled safe in the knowledge that it will be used again and again driving a circular economy.”
The Ellen MacArthur Foundation revealed in 2020 that just 2% of the products sold by the world’s biggest consumer goods firms are housed in reusable packaging.
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