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Aldi, Natural Grocers Commit to Plastic Reduction

Retailers expand sustainability efforts; New York imposes statewide ban of plastic bags
Photograph courtesy of Natural Grocers

As consumers increasingly prioritize sustainability and environmental welfare, retailers and government officials nationwide are stepping up their efforts to combat waste and reduce single-use plastics.

Aldi this week launched a new initiative to help combat the global plastics crisis by committing to shift 100% of its packaging to reusable, recyclable or compostable materials by 2025. The fast-growing discount grocery chain also said it will reduce packaging material across its entire range of Aldi-exclusive products by at least 15%.

Additionally, the retailer by 2020 aims to have 100% of its Aldi-exclusive consumable packaging feature the How2Recycle label—a standardized labeling system designed to empower customers to recycle—as well as implement an initiative to make private label product packaging easier for customers to reuse.

"Aldi has never offered single-use plastic shopping 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," said Jason Hart, CEO of Batavia, Ill.-based Aldi U.S., 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."

The new commitments are an extension of Aldi’s existing sustainability initiatives, which include never offering single-use plastic bags in its stores. By doing so, Aldi estimates that it has helped keep approximately 15 billion single-use plastic bags out of landfills and oceans.

Similarly, Lakewood, Colo.-based Natural Grocers recently hit a major milestone in its commitment toward sustainability, eliminating more than 300 million single-use plastic bags across its 152-store footprint and donating $1 million to its stores’ associated food banks. The initiative, which the retailer first launched on Earth Day in 2009, aims to simultaneously reduce single-use plastic bags and end food insecurity by eliminating plastic bags from checkout lanes and donating 5 cents to local food banks every time a customer shops with a reusable bag.

“The impact of eliminating single-use bags from our stores is enormous,” said Natural Grocers co-President Kemper Isely in a statement. “As a business, the ripple effect of our choices can redefine the future. Ten years ago, we chose to ditch single-use bags during checkout. We thank our customers for supporting this important initiative over the past decade and for making the decision to shop with reusable bags.”

Throughout the month of April, Natural Grocers said it will double its donation to local food banks to 10 cents per shopping trip, benefiting nearly 70 food banks in 19 states. The retailer will also donate $1 per purchase of its new Ladybug Love reusable shopping bag, retailing at $2.99.

“We hope our customers make a renewed effort to shop with reusable shopping bags during the month of April and every day, because their local community food bank and the environment benefits every time they do,” said Isely.

Retailers aren’t the only ones upping their sustainability initiatives with plastic bags in the crosshairs. New York on April 1 approved a budget that includes a statewide ban on single-use disposable plastic grocery bags in an effort to reduce litter.

The ban, which will take effect in March 2020, will require residents to pay for paper bags or reuse their own bags, helping to reduce the 71,000 tons of plastic bags used annually in New York City alone, according to the Citizens Budget Commission. The law will also enable cities and counties to impose a 5-cent paper bag tax in which revenue will be split between the Environmental Protection Fund and the municipality.

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