Lidl to trial removal of all plastic bags at Welsh stores

Lidl will assess the trial’s environmental impact and also the response of customers prior to making any final decision on the scheme

The retailer decided to make the move, which will impact 54 Welsh stores, as it identified the bags were increasingly being used as single use. It believes that the trial will save the equivalent of 150 tonnes of plastic and five million fewer bags being sold annually. If the scheme is successful, it could be rolled out across the UK, resulting in an annual saving of 2,500 tonnes of plastic.

Lidl will assess the trial’s environmental impact and also the response of customers prior to making any final decision on the scheme. It has already removsingle-usegle use plastic bags in 2017 and then 5p plastic bags from sale in 2018, and the new move is part of its strategy to take further action on plastic waste.

Plastics strategy

The combined programmes have resulted in 26m fewer plastic bags being sold annually – and forms the foundation of Lidl’s commitment to reducing plastic packaging by 20% by 2022. It also has plans for 100% of its own brand packaging to be recyclable, reusable, refillable or renewable by 2025.

In September 2018, Lidl removed black plastic packaging from its fruit and vegetable aisles as it is not recyclable in the UK, and cannot be detected by the sorting systems used for plastic recycling. The supermarket chain said the move saved an estimated 50 tonnes of black plastic waste a year. Black plastic packaging will be replaced by alternatives, which Lidl said will be fully recyclable, but which could include clear plastic.

It also has plans to remove black plastic from its fresh meat, fish and poultry range by August 2019, and plans to introduce new cotton and jute alternative bags into its range this summer with customers in Wales also being offered its 38p heavy duty bag and 65p freezer bag.

The firm also has a broader sustainability agenda that includes 100% sustainably sourced soy, where it purchases Roundtable for Responsible Soy (RTRS) credits for its entire soy footprint. The credits ensure farmers receive a premium for using sustainable production methods, with the move making Lidl the largest corporate buyer of RTRS credits in the UK. Additionally, in Ireland the firm is aiming to become a leader in electric vehicle (EV) charging with 20 charge points at its stores.

Chief executive of Lidl GB Christian Härtnagel said: “After seeing that our 9p reusable bag was increasingly being used as a single use option, we wanted to look at how we could mitigate this pattern. Through this trial, we will be able to fully assess the impact that removing our 9p plastic bags has in helping customers shift to a fully reusable option.”

A Welsh Government spokesperson said it would “watch with close interest the effect of Lidl’s innovation and how this will encourage reuse.”

Sector change

The news comes as other supermarkets have continued the fight against plastic bag waste as well. Morrisons is trialling over three-months a paper bag option, covering eight Morrisons stores, where customers who do not bring their own bag will be offered the choice of a reusable and recyclable paper bag for 20p, or a reusable plastic bag for 15p.

Iceland has also undertaken a paper bag trial in 2018 – and a fresh trial on loose fruit and vegetable produce was announced last month – in a bid to reduce its plastics output and find out whether customers are willing to ditch plastic carrier bags at the checkout.

James Evison

Action inspires action. Stay ahead of the curve with sustainability and energy newsletters from edie