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RWM Preview: NRA retail: DS Smith & Aldi

The judges said: “This shows a strong and effective partnership with good work around minimisation. It addresses challenging elements of the waste hierarchy such as prevention and reuse.”


Diverting food waste and other recyclable materials from landfill has resulted in Aldi achieving a 94% recycling rate in the space of seven months.

In April 2013, Aldi began to backhaul its food waste across 480 stores nationwide, using a Dolav collection system of reusable solid pallet boxes with lids. Its food waste is taken to seven distribution centres and onto a network of local anaerobic digestion (AD) and biomass energy plants. Once the food waste reaches an AD facility, any remaining traces of plastic, glass and metal packaging is removed before it undergoes the AD process which results in a biogas used to generate electricity.

Commitment and buy-in from staff across all stores has been key to making the food waste system work. The responsibility for managing staff engagement at the centres lies with each leader at the regional distribution centres. All staff received training on the new food waste collection system, and the leaders provided information about the system in weekly refresher sessions. In order to determine the best and most efficient way of running the food waste system, it was first trialled for a number of months by staff at its centre in Atherstone, Warwickshire.

To keep an eye on contamination and quality, Aldi has dedicated teams in its distribution centres working on this. They check the quality of incoming material and reject any contamination, communicating back any contamination issues to stores. This is part of a drive to continually educate staff and improve the process. Individuals are encouraged to ask if they are unsure about something and look to improve on the process where possible.

Visual inspection plays an important part in reducing wastage in the business – seeing the type of products damaged or unsold. Aldi believes this is helped by using the Dolav system rather than bins which it believes can lead to an ‘out of sight, out of mind’ mentality.

Rob Kaluza, account manager for DS Smith, which manages the supermarket’s waste and recycling, says: “The pragmatism shown by Aldi in implementing the change and the investment shows a clear commitment to the waste reduction strategy DS Smith is implementing. The team’s commitment made a real difference in improving waste and recycling management systems by recognising the principles of the waste hierarchy, extending beyond recycling and minimising waste through to sustainable supply chain management.”

As a result of its initiative to handle its food waste more efficiently, as well as improve the segregation of other recyclables materials, Aldi has significantly boosted the volume of material it diverts from landfill. This includes food waste diverted to charities for reuse as well as to AD.

Andy Gillies, Aldi Logistics director explains: “Our aim is always to minimise food waste. Where waste does occur our objective is to dispose of it in the most corporately responsible manner. AD now plays an important part within our corporate responsibility plan, at the same time offering a cost-efficient solution to dealing with food waste.”

Diverting all food waste from general waste is a key part of Aldi’s CSR policy. The retailer has set itself a target to divert 100% of its waste from landfill by 2015, and is expected to divert in excess of 98% this year. To achieve 100% diversion it will be looking to include more services for composting plants, increasing facilities for dry mixed recycling in store staff rooms, and using more technologies such as thermal treatment.

Aldi has made a commitment to minimise the impact of its own brand packaging using the principles of reduce, reuse, recycle. This includes initiatives such as removing the cardboard box for Aldi toothpaste, charging for plastic bags, and offering plastic bags made from 100% recycled material. Current initiatives include reformulating washing detergents and fabric conditioner to concentrated versions that require less packaging for the same number of washes; removing unnecessary packaging, such as inner wrappers from biscuits; more efficient packaging of bulk goods such as crisps and snacks to cut the number of pallets needed to deliver the same volume;  and working to increase the number of products that are transported in reusable containers, such as returnable crates for potatoes, to reduce the need for cardboard boxes.

As Aldi has signed up to phase three of the Courtauld Commitment, the company has pledged to establish internal packaging targets, embed Courtauld Three principles in company systems and support customers and employees to help everyone reduce food waste.

The waste reduction and management strategy in place has demonstrated a marked change for the supermarket that has produced impressive results – which it hopes to further improve on.

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