Lidl UK exploring deposit return scheme as part of plastic waste commitment

Lidl UK has today (9 March) unveiled a package of new commitments to reduce plastic waste, including plans to remove all single-use plastic bags, reduce the quantity of plastic packaging by one-fifth and consider a deposit return scheme for plastic containers.

As part of the new commitments, Lidl UK will remove all 5p reusable plastic bags from stores from the end of 2018, offering only 9p bags-for-life instead. According to the retailer, this will remove 67 million plastic bags and 134 tonnes of plastic annually. Lidl first removed single-use plastic carrier bags in 2017.

The retailer has committed to reducing plastic packaging by 20% by 2022 and ensuring that 100% of own-brand packaging will be widely recyclable, reusable, refillable or renewable by 2025.

Lidl UK’s chief executive Christian Härtnagel said: “We’re proud of our clear, ambitious targets for the reduction of plastic waste. We have looked at plastic packaging in the context of our wider sustainability commitments and strongly believe that our circular approach will deliver a long-term solution.”

“We want to create a major shift in the way that packaging and plastics are used, to ensure that these resources are recovered and retained, eradicating plastic waste and moving us towards a truly circular system in the long term.  We know our business and the wider industry needs to take big steps to achieve this; that’s why we have set clear and ambitious targets, not only to ensure that our packaging is completely recyclable, but that we are driving demand for this material by driving recycled content.”

Lidl first adopted charges for plastic carriers bags in its first British stores in 1994, and also became the first supermarket to adopt the living wage.

The retailer has already committed to selling paper straws. Plastic-stemmed cotton buds have been replaced with a biodegradable alternative. Additionally, Lidl UK continues to offer high proportions of loose fruit and vegetables.

Lidl’s plastic reduction strategy is built around the circular economy, driving demand for recyclable material while maintaining a focus on reducing food waste. The company revealed it is exploring a deposit return scheme – a mechanism which sees consumers pay a small deposit for plastic and glass bottles, which can be refunded upon return to a shop – as part of this ethos.

Lidl UK joins the likes of Tesco, Co-op, Iceland and Aldi in publicly backing a deposit return scheme for plastic containers.

In fact, Lidl’s swathe of packaging commitments arrives days after Aldi unveiled similar pledges. Aldi will scrap 5p carrier bags by the end of this year and ensure all packaging on its own-label is reusable, recyclable or compostable before 2022.

Both Aldi and Lidl have agreed to be founding members of WRAP’s new UK Plastic Pact, set to be officially unveiled over the coming months, which brings retailers and stakeholders together to tackle the plastics problem.

Late last year, Lidl strived to “challenge any misconceptions” about the relationship between sustainability and discount business models in the retailer’s first ever CSR report. Underpinning the retailer’s sourcing targets is an aim for 100% of its own-label frozen and fresh food to be sustainably sourced by 2019.

The food waste strategy focuses on a 2020 target to slash discarded food from its stores by one-quarter, alongside plans to redistribute all surplus food from its stores by 2019.

Matt Mace

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