A deep-discount grocery store chain that mostly sells private label goods is pledging that all its plastics packaging will be "reusable, recyclable or compostable" in just a matter of years.
Aldi, which originated in Germany, now has more than 1,600 stores in the United States.
The chain, Aldi Einkauf GmbH & Compagnie, with U.S. operations based in Batavia, Ill., near Chicago, also is pledging a packaging material reduction of at least 15 percent.
Aldi's new pledges include all packaging materials, not just plastics, the company said.
Because more than 90 percent of the company's merchandise is store branded, Aldi "has the ability to influence how its products are sourced, produced and brought to shelves," the firm said is a statement.
Aldi, by 2020, also is committing to use the How2Recycle label on all Aldi-exclusive consumable packaging and to "implement an initiative to make private-label product packaging easier for consumers to reuse."
In 2018, Aldi began using the How2Recycle labeling system created by the Sustainable Packaging Coalition. The standardized black-and-while label provides concise recycling instructions for all types of packaging for consumers.
"Aldi has never offered single-use plastic grocery bags. And while we're pleased that we've helped keep billions of plastic grocery bags out of landfills and oceans, we want to continue to do more," Aldi U.S. CEO Jason Hart said in a statement. "The commitments we're making to reduce plastic packaging waste are an investment in our collective future that we are proud to make."
Aldi offers both heavier-gauge plastic and kraft paper shopping bags. The chain, known for its low prices, sells those bags to customers at checkout lines. Many customers bring those bags back for reuse and others bring their own sturdier, reusable shopping bags that have become common these days. Aldi also sells those heavier bags.
Some customers eschew bags altogether and take the time to load their individual items into their vehicles, while others habitually forget their bags and must buy new ones. Some consumers also use cardboard boxes used to display Aldi goods to carry their groceries home.
Aldi, which has been operating in the United States for decades, estimates its business approach "has kept approximately 15 billion single-use plastic bags out of landfills and oceans."
Environmental group Greenpeace credited the company for "taking steps in the right direction by acknowledging its role in the plastic pollution crisis, and beginning to embrace reduction and reuse."
"While the company might intend to make packaging recyclable or compostable, it does not mean that packaging will actually be recycled or composted," Greenpeace Senior Oceans Campaigner David Pinsky said in a statement. Greenpeace called for the company to increase efforts to reduce single-use plastics that are typically thrown away and to build reuse systems.