The German supermarket giant says it has never offered single-use carrier bags and announced to stakeholders last week a wide-ranging plan to dramatically decrease the amount of plastic used by it and its partners.
The strategy aims to reduce the amount of plastic packaging by 25 per cent by 2025 through a number of steps, including replacing the packaging of fresh produce to more sustainable alternatives and phasing out unnecessary single-use plastics by the end of next year.
“We have been working within our business and together with our business partners to identify the best ways to reduce our reliance on plastics,” Aldi Australia corporate responsibility director Daniel Baker told news.com.au.
“This includes actively exploring and encouraging innovation in new packaging solutions and fostering the development of a circular plastics economy in Australia.”
Mr Baker admits removing plastics completely from the supermarket chain will take “years not weeks” but says customers have responded positively to the plan.
“In 2019, we will increase the level of transparency we provide to the market about key aspects of our operations, including our progress on our commitments,” he said.
NSW Environment Minister Matt Kean said the Government had lagged the private sector on the sustainable policy.
“We’re considering all options,” he told 2GB.
“We want to see plastics stop polluting our environment. We know that single-use plastic bags are a major contributor to pollution and litter in our state, and that’s why we want to look at all ways that we can clean up our environment.”
NSW is the only state or territory in Australia that hasn’t moved to phase out the bags.
Labor MP Penny Sharpe recently reintroduced a bill to NSW parliament in a fresh attempt to prohibit their supply.
The news comes as Mr Kean celebrated a “major milestone”, with two billion drink containers collected in the first 19 months of the “return and earn” program.
He said NSW communities were returning an average four million containers a day.
“Millions of people — one in every two adults in NSW — have changed their everyday recycling patterns and are doing their bit to reduce litter and collect their 10-cent refund,” he said in a statement.
Aldi says its policy of never offering single-use bags has kept 40,000 tonnes of plastic from entering the environment, while nearly 5000 tonnes of plastic have been kept out of circulation from Woolworths alone since the supermarket plastic bag ban was introduced 12 months ago — equal to more than 780 African elephants.
Despite some controversial backflips and modifications to the environmental policy along the way, both major supermarkets have revealed its massive impact.
Woolworths has issued about three billion fewer plastic bags from its stores over the last year.
It says shoppers have embraced the new habit, with one in six transactions now including the purchase of a plastic bag, and that number is decreasing month-on-month.
Coles says the sustainable strategy has diverted 1.7 billion single-use bags from landfill, with data claiming seven in 10 of its consumers now remember to bring a reusable bag when they shop and a further two in 10 bringing them on more occasions than not.
Single-use plastic bags have been banned in South Australia, Queensland, the ACT and Western Australia, while Victoria is expected to follow in November.
Woolworths chief executive Brad Banducci said consumers were quick to embrace the change despite vocal criticism from portions of the country.
“We recognise change is never easy, particularly when it comes to something as habitual as grocery shopping,” he said.
“Yet one year after we phased out single-use plastic bags, it’s clear Australians have formed new habits and embraced a vastly more sustainable way of shopping with reusable bags.”
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