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Aldi to eliminate plastic bags by the end of 2023

The Aldi BB #:116756 supermarket chain has announced a commitment to eliminate all plastic shopping bags from its stores by the end of 2023.

Aldi, which is headquartered in Batavia, IL, claims to be the first major U.S. retailer to take this step.

The retailer says this move will remove 4,400 tons of plastic from the environment every year. Aldi has already removed plastic shopping bags from nearly 500 stores.

In a public letter, Aldi CEO Jason Hart wrote, “Last year, ALDI was named the most sustainable grocery store in America. We’re proud of this recognition and to be leading the way, pushing the industry forward on sustainability practices. Being a leader means we don’t just throw out lofty goals without holding ourselves accountable. Today’s plastic bag announcement is just one piece of a much larger Corporate Responsibility update we’re proud to have prepared for you, our loyal fans.”

Aldi’s corporate responsibility update can be found here.

Highlights include:

• “ALDI has been recognized by the EPA for its industry leadership in making refrigeration more sustainable by transitioning to natural refrigerants with near-zero global warming potential.”

• “20 tons of plastic packaging removed from nonfood products.”

• “100% of everyday items made of wood or pulp are certified as sustainably sourced from well-managed forests.”

• “1 million trays removed from asparagus packaging.”

“We’re currently testing a reduced plastic packaging format for produce items,” the report adds.

The company has also donated over 33 million pounds of food through the Feeding America food bank organization.

Future goals are to reduce packaging materials by 15 percent, make 100 percent of exclusive packaging reusable, recyclable, or compostable by 2025, and use 20 percent post-consumer recycled content in plastic packaging by 2025.

The announcement about produce items reflects a certain tension in the industry—toward increased use of packaging (such as bagged versus bulk apples) while at the same time feeling pressure to reduce it.

In this as in other areas, consumer preferences can be hard to sort out—sometimes because they are self-contradictory.

Richard Smoley, contributing editor for Blue Book Services, Inc., has more than 40 years of experience in magazine writing and editing, and is the former managing editor of California Farmer magazine. A graduate of Harvard and Oxford universities, he has published 12 books.