Aldi’s AI recycling tracker and Spain’s clampdown on short-haul flights: The sustainability success stories of the week

Published every week, this series charts how businesses and sustainability professionals are working to achieve their ‘Mission Possible’ across the campaign’s five key pillars – energy, resources, infrastructure, mobility and sustainability leadership.

Across the UK and across the world, leading businesses, cities, states and regions are turning environmental ambitions into action. Here, we round up five positive sustainability stories from this week.

ENERGY: GSK to meet half of European electricity needs with new Spanish solar farms


As it works towards using 100% renewable electricity by 2030, pharmaceutical giant GSK has entered into a 12-year agreement to purchase electricity generated at two new solar farms in Spain.

GSK has forged a Virtual Power Purchase Agreement (VPPA) with renewable energy firm IGNIS, which will see it supplied with 200GWh of renewable energy certificates each year generated at two new solar projects in Spain, developed specifically for this Agreement and due to be completed by the end of 2025.

This supply will cover around 50% of GSK’s total electricity demand in mainland Europe. GSK is anticipating a 72,000-tonne decrease in its Scope 2 (power-related) emissions as a result of the VPPA.

“This investment in renewable energy is a contribution towards our decarbonisation goals, while also supporting business resilience by providing energy security and cost predictability in the long term,” said GSK’s global president for supply chains, Regis Simard.

RESOURCES: Aldi uses AI to enhance track flexible plastics recycling


Aldi UK collected around 300 tonnes of flexible plastics in stores in 2023.

Less than one in five UK councils offer household collections of flexible plastics, which represent almost one-quarter of consumer goods packaging placed on the British market each year. Supermarkets have sought to improve the availability of recycling services by launching in-store collection points in recent years.

In a bid to build trust in its in-store flexible plastic take-back scheme, Aldi UK is using artificial intelligence (AI) to track what happens to collected plastics once they are sent to its reprocessing partner, Jayplas. The digital tool it is using, from Greenback Recycling Technologies, tracks plastic collection levels by material, data on the sorting process and information on the new products made from recycled materials.

Aldi UK has certified the recycling of 87 tonnes of plastics using this tool, almost one-third of the total amount it collected in 2023.

You can read edie’s full story here.

MOBILITY: New scheme helps petrol forecourts adopt EV chargers


The UK now plays home to some 50,000 publicly accessible electric vehicle (EV) charging points, with 10,000 having been installed during autumn 2023.

The UK Government’s plans for expanding public chargers to reach 300,000 by 2030 rely heavily on adding infrastructure at service stations across motorway networks.

In a bid to help independent petrol station owners to install its charging points, provider Fastned has launched a new offer providing financial support with the site cleanups necessary to facilitate installations. Operators are required to decommission underground fuel site and remove any contaminated soil before using their land for other business activities than fuel pumps.

Fastned operates 21 charging hubs in the UK with a collective total of 112 charging points. Its UK country manager Tom Hurst said it is important to involve independent forecourt operators to “make EVs the new norm”.

Hurst added: “With this offer, we’re putting our money where our mouth is. We’re serious about ramping up the roll-out of the UK and Ireland’s charging network, and we’re excited to work with petrol station owners that want to be at the forefront of the EV transition.”

THE BUILT ENVIRONMENT: Midlands warehouses certified as BREEAM ‘Outstanding’


900,000 square metres in large distribution warehouses were added to the UK in 2022, with businesses investing to keep pace with growing e-commerce activity. This presents expanded possibilities for rooftop solar, and also challenges relating to energy demands and other environmental impacts.

Seeking to provide an environmental blueprint for the industry, real estate giant GLP has developed two warehouse units at Magna Park Corby that are certified as BREEAM ‘Outstanding’ and also hold PlanetMark certifications.

This puts the units in the top 1% of BREEAM-assessed commercial buildings in the UK. Both units made use of efficient construction methods and innovative materials to reduce embodied carbon. Built-in energy efficiency features and heat reuse systems cut operational emissions; at both units, GLP is forecasting more than a 30% reduction in carbon emissions across the building life cycle.

Unit 3 also features rainwater harvesting, solar-thermal roof panels and air-source heat pumps.

GLP’s senior construction manager Peter Baird said: “Reaching BREEAM Outstanding is an excellent stamp of approval for us and a firm indication of our ongoing commitment to sustainable development of logistics assets in the UK and beyond.”

SUSTAINABILITY LEADERSHIP: Spain cuts back on short-haul flights to promote lower-carbon travel


Aviation accounts for 2-3% of global greenhouse gas emissions each year, and these emissions are hard to tackle due to a lack of commercially viable alternative fuels or electric passenger planes.

As such, the Spanish Government is seeking to ban some short-haul domestic flights to meet its climate targets. It is proposing a ban on flights with a rail alternative route which takes less than two-and-a-half hours to travel. Policymakers are also seeking to restrict private jet use and increase taxes on kerosene-based aviation fuels.

The move would see Spain following in France’s footsteps. French Lawmakers passed a decree earlier last summer to ensure that domestic short-haul flights where a train alternative of 2.5 hours or less exist cannot be taken. Routs including Paris to Lyon, Paris to Bordeaux and Paris to Lyon were impacted.

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