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Aldi leads circular Australian economy

AS consumers we are much more aware of the way we buy products, the way they are packaged and where they are made – now more than ever. 

There is however a big ‘but,’ and that is in the measures taken by businesses to reduce plastics and increase the use of recycled plastics or use alternate eco-friendly products.

The best of intentions is one thing, but businesses will not implement change that damages their bottom line.

To meet a consumer’s growing environmental consciousness and expectations, takes careful planning before radical change.

In so many ways, ALDI was ahead of the game.

Huge changes across many ranges have been made in more are on the way.

Many will remember when ALDI entered the Australian marketplace in 2001 – it was quite unconventional by never offering a single use plastic bag.

Customers were encouraged to bring a reusable one.

The estimated gain was to reduce the number of single use bags by six billion or 40,000 tonnes of plastic from entering the environment.

Such is ALDI’s commitment to a better environment, it has become the first supermarket to offer a national battery recycling scheme – starting in 2013.

You will find a battery recycling bin in each store and they accept AA, AAA, C, D and 9-volt batteries – rechargeable or not.

Since the program began, Aldi has recycled 27 million batteries.

ALDI as a global company has set itself serious environmental sustainability targets.

ALDI’s exclusive brands aim to be 100 per cent recyclable, reusable or compostable by 2025, and all paper and pulp-based packaging in the everyday range with either be FSC (Forest Stewardship Council), or PEFC (Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification) certified or 70 per cent recycled by 2020.

Now ALDI can also offer a phosphate free laundry detergent range and it has removed microbeads storewide.

The company has committed to reducing its reliance on plastic by a further 25 per cent by 2050 and will begin reporting against that objective from this year.

There will be a transition to more sustainable packing of fresh produce and by the end of 2021.

Customers will not find single use plastic straws, plastic disposable tableware and plastic stemmed cotton buds in ALDI stores across Australia.

Like all businesses, ALDI is looking to reduce its energy consumption and has recently refitted stores with energy efficient LED lighting and more efficient cold/freezer storage units.

ALDI has also set a target of reducing green-house gas emissions per square metre of sales area by 30 per cent on the 2012 baseline.

To further help, the company will transition to renewable energy sources – where both stores and warehouses will have solar panels installed.

In response to a University study confirming that artificial colours caused hyperactivity, allergic reactions, irritability, sleep disturbances and rashes – ALDI removed all artificial colours from its food. 

This was a bold step and a huge undertaking involving working with suppliers to reformulate supplies with naturally occurring alternatives.

Where reformulating could not occur according to ALDI policy – it was removed from sale.

“We will also work to stimulate an Australian circular economy by committing to include 30 per cent recycled materials in our plastic packaging by the end of 2025,” ALDI Australia corporate responsibility director, Daniel Baker told the Western District Farmer.

“We have led the industry on a number of environmental programs, including being the first and only supermarket to offer a national battery recycling scheme, the first supermarket to eliminate phosphate from our entire laundry range and the first to eliminate microbeads storewide.

“A big focus at ALDI is our commitment to sourcing food products sustainably.

“We work with suppliers ensure that the raw materials that make up our products are grown and produced sustainably.”

Mr Barker said Aldi stocks the largest range of Fairtrade coffee, tea and chocolate and only use 100 per cent sustainably sourced palm oil in products.

“We also have the largest range of private-label MSC (Marine Stewardship Council) certified fish and seafood compared to any other Australian retailer,” he said.

Another aspect of the ALDI business model that Mr Baker was very proud of was the link with food charities.

“To avoid unsold food from going to waste, every ALDI store in Australia is linked to one or more food rescue partners, including OzHarvest, Foodbank and SecondBite,” he said.

“In 2019 we donated over 10 million meals and 34,000 kilograms of non-food items to charity partners.”

The retailer has long had an “Australia first” supplier policy, which committed ALDI to buying locally, unless the desired product was not available at the required quality or volume.

What that means is a supplier list that’s overwhelmingly Australian.

Of the 1200 suppliers ALDI currently has on the books, more than 1000 are Australian-owned.

ALDI’s Australian suppliers include niche operators as well as larger operators that produce some of Australia’s leading brands, but they all share one thing in common.

As ALDI has grown over the past 17 years, so too have its local suppliers.

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