Avoiding waste and recycling reusables
The large increase in the amount of waste produced worldwide places a considerable burden on the environment. One of ALDI SOUTH’s aims is to avoid waste and to reuse or recycle materials where possible.
Over our products’ life cycles – whether food or non-food – the largest amount of waste is generated during production or after the products have been used by the customers. As the intermediary station, retail usually has the least amount of waste in the chain, and this waste mainly consists of transport packaging. Perishable food products that have not been sold in time are also a source of waste.
International strategy for waste management in force since 2015
In 2015 the ALDI SOUTH Group adopted an international waste strategy based on the principle “avoid, reuse, recycle”. Wherever possible, we try to avoid burning waste or sending it to a landfill. Suitable waste management measures are determined and implemented at a national level. The national organisations are currently working on systems that can comprehensively monitor the various types of waste.
We almost completely reuse or recycle transport packaging. Within the group, transport packaging consisted of 513,500 tonnes of cardboard and paper and 13,700 tonnes of plastic wrap in 2015. The recycling ratio for these materials is nearly 100%. We have also introduced reusable plastic transport boxes in some countries for fruit, vegetables, and, in some cases, even bread.
Avoiding food waste
With regard to perishable food products, our goal is to avoid any waste. Despite the continual optimisation of our planning and ordering processes, we do not always manage to sell all food products before the end of their shelf life. In order to donate food that is still consumable to those in need, 81% of our stores work with charitable organisations such as food banks. The remainder of unsold food products is partly also used for agricultural purposes or for the production of biogas. (Product and food donations)
National innovations launched
The national organisations also develop own initiatives for reducing waste, tailored to the conditions of their respective country. ALDI UK, for example, excludes sending waste to landfills in their waste contracts as much as possible although this is still legal according to national law. In Germany, a project group is reviewing the viability of recycling systems for PET bottles. Among other things, the group is reviewing whether an own bottle recycling scheme will bring ecological benefits over the current national PET recycling scheme and what economic impact the introduction of such a cycle would have.
While accepting battery returns is mandatory in stores in the EU and Switzerland, ALDI in Australia voluntarily accepts returns. To date 102 tonnes of batteries have been returned.
More focus on the environment when it comes to product packaging
Product packaging is responsible for a large proportion of total waste. We are making the most of our potential influence when working with our suppliers to push for the most environmentally friendly packaging option. In Austria and Germany we have already been able to switch the majority of composite board for beverage packaging to comply with the PEFC or FSC standard. ALDI UK has produced guidelines for suppliers that specify avoiding, reusing, and recycling packaging whenever possible.
Many areas will continue to need improvement in the future, such as our use of transparent plastic blister packaging. On the one hand, this type of packaging allows customers to inspect products before purchasing without having to unpack them or damage the packaging. On the other hand, however, a large amount of waste is produced that could be avoided. This example shows how we have to weigh ecological aspects against qualitative and economical aspects.
Our national organisations in the UK, Austria, and Australia are all already involved in national initiatives for environmentally friendly packaging. Hofer in Austria, for example, is a member of the “ARGE Nachhaltigkeitsagenda” (“Working Group Sustainability Agenda”) for beverage packaging. The aim of this working group is to reduce the amount of greenhouse gas emissions resulting from beverage packaging. ALDI Australia is a signatory of the Australian Packaging Covenant, an initiative targeting sustainable packaging design.