Tackling the Issue of Plastics

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Tackling the Issue of Plastics

By Joan Kavanaugh - 04/08/2019
Tackling the Issue of Plastics
"In the grocery industry, the need to reduce plastics prompts ingenuity and action from everyone in the supply chain," writes Aldi VP of Corporate Buying Joan Kavanaugh

When considering all of the pressing issues we face in today’s world, plastic waste may not be at the top of the list. But take a moment to consider the 9.7 billion people using plastics every single day — it all adds up.

Over the past five decades, world plastic production has doubled, and every year a staggering 8 million metric tons of plastic end up in the ocean. Our collective challenge is to better manage our resources. In the grocery industry, the need to reduce plastics prompts ingenuity and action from everyone in the supply chain.   

For more than 40 years, Aldi has remained deeply mindful of its impact, both on the environment and the communities it serves, growing and adapting as society changes at a rapid pace. I’ve been with the company for more than 25 of those years, and when I think about what issue we need to tackle next, the global plastics crisis is top of mind.

By 2022, Aldi will be the nation’s third-largest grocery retailer. With this kind of growth comes added responsibility to limit how much plastic packaging we use.  

With the partnership of our suppliers, we’re committed to making 100 percent of Aldi private label packaging, including plastic packaging, reusable, recyclable or compostable by 2025.

More than 90 percent of Aldi products are our own exclusive brands, which gives us more control over how items are sourced, produced and brought to shelves. To meet our packaging goal, we need to work side by side with our suppliers to prioritize innovative solutions that reduce our collective packaging footprint. To that end, we’re already evaluating opportunities to increase the sustainable forestry and recycled material we source for packaging in our everyday products like cereal, flour, pasta and facial tissue. 

It shouldn’t stop there, though, because we are all consumers of plastic. I’m reminded of this every time I open a new bag of pistachios or a granola bar. And yet, according to the Environmental Protection Agency, the U.S. recycling rate is stalled at about 34 percent.

All of us can help improve this rate by doing something as simple as bringing our own bags when we shop. Since we opened our first U.S. store in 1976, we’ve never offered single-use plastic grocery bags at Aldi, and we have encouraged people to bring their own totes. When widely adopted by people around the world, little actions like this and generally being more open-minded when it comes to new and different product packaging, can add up to make a big difference.

Recycling also needs to be more readily available in every community to help us all be more responsible stewards of the environment. Reviewing community recycling guidelines and product labels for disposal information is a simple step toward being more environmentally conscious. At Aldi, we’re working to add How2Recycle labels to our packaging to help make it even easier for our customers to recycle.

Standardizing and implementing best practices around plastic reduction is important. For us, sustainability is about ensuring a positive and mutually beneficial future for everyone.

As this conversation evolves, we hope to inspire suppliers, manufacturers and other grocery business partners to join us in committing to address an issue that impacts people across the world. Ultimately, collaboration is key to sparking the right kind of change.

About the Author

Joan Kavanaugh

Joan Kavanaugh

Joan Kavanaugh is VP of corporate buying at Batavia, Ill.-based Aldi U.S. Kavanaugh oversees corporate responsibility for the entire organization, as well as the corporate test kitchen, customer service, quality assurance and several other buying functions. Read More