Grocery retailer ALDI announced this morning its plans to transition to more sustainable packaging for all its products. According to a press release, by 2025, the company plans to make 100 percent of its packaging, including plastic packaging, “reusable, recyclable or compostable.”
While no effort to reduce packaging waste in this day and age could be deemed easy, ALDI does certainly have an advantage over other grocery retailers because about 90 percent of its products are the in-house ALDI brand, which allows the company greater control over the packaging of items. ALDI also uses fewer plastic shopping bags because it doesn’t hand them out for free at checkout; shoppers can pay a small fee to get one but are encouraged to bring their own totes. According to the company, doing so has kept some 15 billion plastic bags out of landfills (or in the ocean).
ALDI’s announcement is the latest among several recent moves to curb the sale and use of plastic carrier bags in the U.S. New York this week became the second state to ban plastic bags, and here in NYC, where I never thought we’d see the death of the plastic bag, lawmakers are also considering charging a small fee for paper bags. A group representing Massachusetts supermarkets offered support on Tuesday for a bill that would outlaw single-use plastic bags in that state.
But plastic bags are only one part of grocery packaging and its subsequent waste. ALDI didn’t say exactly how it would make every one of its items’ packaging reusable or compostable, but a couple efforts around the country give us an indication. The Wally Shop, in Brooklyn, is a zero-waste grocery store where customers order online then pick up goods that are packaged in reusable containers. Precycle, also in Brooklyn, sells bulk items and household goods in reusable packaging.
The catch is that these zero waste grocery stores tend to be pricier than the average big-box retailer. Because it’s easy to say good-bye to packaging waste when you’re charging hipsters $6 for a bundle of asparagus and $30 for a reusable tote.
That’s why the ALDI news is especially intriguing. The retailer has historically served budget-conscious consumers. If the company, who claims 40 million customers in 1,800 stores currently, can make sustainable shopping easier for more people, the hope is that other big-box stores will follow suit in the near future.