Aldi launches packaging-free refillable trial

Aldi has today (14 April) launched its first trial of packaging-free products, with a variety of rice and pasta on offer as part of a new refillable service.

If successful, the trial could be rolled out to other stores

If successful, the trial could be rolled out to other stores

Aldi has launched the refillable options for a selection of foods at one store in Ulverston, Cumbria. Customers can purchase basmati rice, brown rice, penne pasta and wholewheat fusilli loose in store, with free FSC-certified paper bags available for use.

If successful, the trial could be expanded to other stores in the future. Aldi estimates that refillable options could remove more than 130 tonnes of plastics annually from its stores.

Aldi’s plastics and packaging director Richard Gorman said: “Customers at our Ulverston store can now buy the same high-quality items they know and love, while also cutting down on plastic packaging.

“We’re always looking for new ways to reduce waste plastic and limit packaging, as many of our shoppers are increasingly conscious of the environment and their impact on it. We hope local customers embrace the trial and we will use their feedback to inform any future plans around refillable products.”

Last year, Aldi pledged to halve the volume of plastic packaging it uses annually by 2025. The new commitment will see 2.2 billion pieces of plastic removed from the supermarket’s product lines over the next five years, most of which will be single-use. This is equivalent to 74,000 tonnes in weight.

Plastic wrapping on toilet rolls, for example, are being replaced with a paper alternative, and double lids will be removed from cream and yoghurts.

Aldi UK is continuing its phase-out of plastic trays on steak lines, replacing them with cardboard alternatives.

Since launching its updated plastics strategy in 2018, Aldi has removed more than 6,000 tonnes of plastic packaging from products, including flexible sleeves on multipack tinsexpanded polystyrene pizza bases and fruit and vegetable multipacks. The new target aims to accelerate this progress and builds on a previous commitment to reduce plastic packaging volumes by 25% by 2023.

Refill revolution

Aldi is the latest supermarket to trial packaging-free products.

Earlier this year, Waitrose extended its trial of packaging-free, refillable products. The retail giant, a subsidiary of the John Lewis Partnership, first began trialling its ‘Waitrose Unpacked’ offering in 2019 at its Botley Road store in Oxford. Customers were encouraged to bring their own reusable containers for dozens of loose products including coffee, wine, beer, pasta, grains, cereals, laundry detergent, washing-up liquid and frozen fruit.

This format proved so popular that it was added to additional stores before the initial trial finished. It was found to reduce single-use packaging by 98%.

Elsewhere, Marks & Spencer (M&S) extended its packaging-free refill offering for dried and ambient products such as coffee and pulses this month, following a successful trial.`

More broadly, retailers including Tesco in the UK and Carrefour in France are planning to bring TerraCycle's refillable Loop model, backed by businesses like Danone and Unilever, to stores.

Matt Mace



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