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03/10/2021

Aldi addresses sustainability goals

Discounter continues its goal to have all own brand packaging be recyclable, reusable or compostable — including plastics — by 2025, and positions toward less greenhouse gas, food waste and more.
Dan Ochwat
Executive Editor
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At Aldi, more than 90% of its assortment is exclusive-brand Aldi products, so when the retailer continues to update that it is pushing to have all of its own brand packaging be reusable, recyclable or compostable in the next four years, it carries weight.

The retailer listed this initiative as part of its “new charter for sustainability” that aims to reduce food and operational waste, reduce greenhouse gases, and improve packaging and sourcing with goals set between now and 2030, depending on the issue.

“ALDI has a responsibility to protect the environment and we know it’s an important priority for our customers,” said Jason Hart, CEO, Aldi U.S. “We are committed to evaluating and implementing sustainable business practices while always offering the highest quality products at prices that can't be beat."

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With its packaging, Aldi had previously announced that all of its store brand packaging would be recyclable, reusable or compostable by 2025, as well as reduce packaging materials by 15% during that same span. Aldi reinforced that positioning in its latest update, saying by the end of this year, all styrofoam will be removed from produce packaging, and 100% of Aldi-exclusive packaging — including plastics — will be reusable, recyclable or compostable by 2025.

Aldi said it has redesigned packaging to remove or reduce excess plastic from products such as teas and bread, and in select stores, ALDI is introducing alternative packaging for perishables like blueberries and tomatoes, which uses 20% less plastic than traditional containers, and for mixed bell peppers, which uses 44% less plastic. Additionally, the grocer is labeling products to promote recycling at home, using cardboard sleeves for more than 90% of apparel items, and trialing recyclable and compostable paper bags for apples in some stores. 

The retailer has never offered single-use plastic bags at checkout and only sells reusable plastic and cloth bags, which the company estimates has kept more than 15 billion bags out of landfills and oceans. Aldi is also testing a new initiative to remove all multi-use plastic bags from six stores in Richmond, Va. 

“The global impact of plastics can’t be ignored,” said Hart. “We can’t get rid of plastic everywhere overnight, but we continue to work to eliminate plastics anywhere we can. Where we do need plastic, we are committed to choosing materials that contribute to a circular plastic economy.” 

Responsible Sourcing
With the help of its business partners, Aldi said its sustainable sourcing initiative will promote human rights, increase supply chain transparency, and ensure products are designed and produced in an environmentally friendly way. Notably, this includes the more than 40 coffee products at the store that are currently certified. Adding to this list will be its Simply Nature and Barissimo coffees being sustainably sourced by end of 2022. Aldi is the second-largest private brand purchaser of Fair Trade USA coffee.

Additionally, Aldi’s own brand chocolate bars and candies are certified as sustainably sourced by Fairtrade, Fair Trade USA or Rainforest Alliance, and all of its Aldi-exclusive brand fresh, frozen and canned seafoods are to be sourced from responsible fisheries and farms. This includes 100 seafood products being certified as sustainably sourced by a third party. Aldi also joined the Ocean Disclosure Project that makes its wild-caught seafood transparent to the origin of where it was caught.

Reduce Food Waste, Greenhouse Gas
Aldi’s aggressive sustainability action also aims to divert 90% of operational waste by 2025 and reduce food waste by 50% by 2030. These measures will include composting, nonfood donation programs, expanded recycling and expanded food recovery initiatives. In 2020, Aldi recycled nearly 300,000 tons of materials avoiding the greenhouse gas emission equivalent of nearly 9 million gallons of gasoline per month, the retailer said. In the same year, to combat both food waste and food insecurity, Aldi donated more than 29 million pounds of product that would have otherwise gone to landfills to local food banks through its partnership with Feeding America. 

By 2025, Aldi said it plans to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 26%, transitioning to solar and wind energy sourcing and building a renewable infrastructure to rely less on grey power grids. Earlier this year, Aldi installed its first company wind turbine at a warehouse in Dwight, Ill.

The retailer has solar panels at 111 stores and 12 distribution centers nationwide and will add solar warehouses in Alabama and Kansas as well as 60 stores by end of 2022.

ALDI has been recognized by the Environmental Protection Agency as a green power leader and currently purchases enough renewable energy annually to power its more than 2,000 stores, 25 warehouses and offices. The retailer is sourcing this power through Green-e and receives renewable energy certificates to validate its clean energy investment.  

All Aldi U.S. warehouses and nearly 400 stores use natural refrigerants that reduce the environmental impact by up to 4,000 times compared to common refrigerants. The discounter will continue to shift to natural refrigerants in all store locations. In 2020, Aldi earned more EPA GreenChill store certifications than any supermarket chain previously, the company said.