Aldi recycling bin

Source: Aldi

Aldi collects around 300 tonnes of flexible plastic a year

Aldi is pioneering a system of tracking flexible plastic through its recycling journey, from the collection points in its stores to the products into which it is processed.

The discounter is working with the Flexible Plastic Fund, which was established in 2021 by Mars, Mondelez International, Nestlé, PepsiCo and Unilever to improve soft plastic recycling in the UK.

Soft plastic is being tracked from Aldi collection points using the AI system Eco2Veritas, developed by Greenback Recycling Technologies. The system certifies the amount collected, shows how much of it is sorted and into which polymers, and finally how much is reprocessed and into what end products.

Once flexible plastic is tracked and certified as recycled, Aldi receives funding from the FPF to support further recycling.

The supermarket got its first certificate in February, confirming 62 tonnes of polyethylene and 25 tonnes of polypropylene were recycled. The material was certified as collected over a number of months in 2023.

Read more: Philippe von Stauffenberg’s fight to solve the plastic crisis with chemical recycling

Aldi currently collects around 300 tonnes of flexible plastic year, sending to it to recycler Jayplas to be processed into refuse sacks or crates and trays.

“We are committed to tackling plastic waste,” said Aldi UK plastics and packaging director Luke Emery.

“We know this is an issue that matters to our customers too, which is why we’re working with the FPF to further improve the recycling of flexible plastics collected in our stores.”

The FPF was set up in 2021 with a £1m fund from its heavyweight fmcg founders to tackle a lack of soft plastic recycling facilities in the UK.

Its partners now include Abel & Cole, Ella’s Kitchen, Kiddylicious, Koninklijke Douwe Egberts, KP Snacks, Lotus Bakeries, McCain Foods, Natural Balance Foods, Ocado Retail, The Collective, Pladis and Vitaflo.

It has also worked with Sainsbury’s and Waitrose. It is understood it is still engaged with the two supermarkets but an opportunity arose to work closely with Aldi on getting the new tracking technology up and running.

Now that it has been demonstrated in practice, the FPF hopes to extend coverage to more retailers.

Last year the FPF launched a £3m trial to collect soft plastic from doorsteps across the UK, called the FlexCollect project. An interim report last month showed the amount of plastic collected per household nearly trebled in trial areas that had weekly collections, compared with fortnightly.

The results suggest the system of extended producer responsibility, due to come into force next year, will require the industry to finance weekly collections of soft plastic if they are to achieve effective recycling of the material.