Asda and Aldi expand plastic-free packaging efforts

Aldi has revealed designs for plastic-free Easter egg packaging, in the same week that Asda made a commitment to replace one million plastic shelf-edge labels (SELs) with more sustainable alternatives.

Asda and Aldi expand plastic-free packaging efforts

Pictured: Two of Aldi's Easter lines with new packaging. Image: Aldi UK

Aldi is striving to halve the amount of plastic it uses annually, by weight, in the UK by 2025. In a step towards this target, it has finalised new packaging for its Easter range which it claims will mitigate the use of two million pieces of plastic.

Six of the supermarket’s Easter product lines have been made plastic-free. On Easter eggs, the firm has redesigned some eggs so they have a square-shaped base and no longer need a plastic support within their boxes. Plastic windows have also been removed from outer packages, replaced wither with a printed image on cardboard or with a removable, compostable cellulose film.

Aldi has also confirmed plans for what it calls a “fully sustainable” chocolate box. The plastic insert typically found in chocolate boxes has been replaced with a bio-based alternative made using recycled potato skins.

All in all, Aldi has forecast that the changes will mitigate the use of 29 tonnes of single-use plastic or two million individual plastic components.

The move comes after Aldi redesigned its own-brand Christmas product portfolio in 2020 to reduce plastic output by 5.5 million pieces.

“We’re committed to eliminating plastic wherever possible, and the changes to our Easter range are a great example of removing unnecessary plastic that we can all do without,” Aldi UK’s plastics and packaging director Richard Gorman said. “We know our customers want to protect the environment, and it is changes like this that make all the difference.”

Aldi UK’s corporate responsibility manager, Hollie Clark, is a member of edie’s 30 Under 30. You can read her profile, which details more around the retailer’s work on sustainable packaging, by clicking here.

Off the shelf

In related news, Asda has signed an agreement with packaging and materials giant DS Smith to replace one million pieces of hard-to-recycle plastic in point-of-sale displays this year.

Specifically, the partnership will tackle SEL holders, which are typically made using hard-to-recycle PVC. DS Smith’s plastic-free solution involves affixing SELs directly with adhesive, rather than holding them in place with PVC strips.

Once the rollout is complete, just 5% of Asda’s SEL holders will contain plastic. This will represent a reduction of eight tonnes of plastic.

“Removing unnecessary plastic is at the top of our minds and is also very important to our customers,” Asda’s print manager Lisa Walker said.

“Using less plastic enables us to minimise our environmental impact and we are continually striving to identify opportunities to remove plastic from our business, in favour of innovative and sustainable alternatives. This project with DS Smith has enabled us to remove the plastic SEL holder, as well as making it easier for our shipper units to flow through our cardboard recycling stream.”

Asda’s wider plastics strategy is rooted in WRAP’s UK Plastics Pact, which sets four main minimum requirements on signatories against a 2025 deadline. It binds signatories to eliminating unnecessary single-use packaging through redesign; making all plastic packaging 100% reusable, recyclable or compostable; achieving recycling and composting rates of 70% or more for packaging, and including 30% recycled content across all packaging.

Policy changes on the horizon

The announcements from the supermarkets come in the same week that MPs on the Environmental Audit Committee (EAC) re-started inquiries about the deposit return scheme (DRS), following Covid-19-related delays.

Plans for rolling out such a scheme were first officially floated through the Resources and Waste Strategy in 2018 – the first major policy update in this space in more than a decade. Consultations will determine whether the UK should opt for an ‘all-in’ system – a broader approach in terms of which packaging is included by material, type and where it is sold – or a less sweeping ‘on-the-go’ option.

A group of 19 MPs have this week signed an early-day motion calling for the introduction of a “variable” system, in which the deposit value varies based on the size and material of the container. The motion has been backed by both Conservative and Labour MPs. Non-variable fees “risk incentivising consumers to purchase two-litre plastic bottles”, the motion argues.

A broader consultation on the proposed DRS, by Defra, is due to begin in the coming months.

Sarah George

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