It is almost impossible to imagine the world without plastic, as our food system has come to depend on plastic for safety and convenience. In our business, packaging protects the safety of our food, helps reduce food waste and communicates information to customers. Packaging made from plastic can provide additional benefits, such as a lighter overall weight that reduces material use and greenhouse gas emissions.
However, most plastic packaging is not recycled or re-used. And mismanaged plastic waste can cause a variety of problems, including damage to the global marine ecosystem.
In light of these concerns, we are conscious that we need to move to a more circular system to reduce the negative impacts of plastic. The focus of Ahold Delhaize and local brands to date is on where we can make a direct impact: optimizing own-brand product packaging, reducing single-use plastics used for carrier bags, and recycling plastic waste generated in our own facilities.
New Plastics Economy Global Commitment
Ahold Delhaize joined the New Plastics Economy Global Commitment, led by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation in collaboration with UN Environment. The focus of the commitment is threefold:
- Eliminate problematic or unnecessary plastic packaging and move from single-use to reuse packaging models
- Innovate to ensure 100% of plastic packaging can be easily and safely reused, recycled, or composted by 2025
- Circulate the plastic produced, by significantly increasing the amounts of plastics reused or recycled and made into new packaging or products
The alignment with the Global Commitment means Ahold Delhaize will report annually on progress against these targets to help drive momentum and ensure transparency. Concretely, this means that by 2025 all our plastic packaging will be fully reusable, recyclable, or compostable; that we will have increased the amount of recycled content used in our packaging by as much as possible; and that we will have eliminated unnecessary single-use plastics in favor of reusable alternatives. Furthermore we will ensure all plastic packaging is free of hazardous chemicals and the health, safety and rights of all people involved are respected.
Our brands’ efforts
The brands of Ahold Delhaize have introduced a variety of initiatives to optimize product packaging to reduce plastic. For example, Delhaize in Belgium reduced unnecessary plastic packaging of certain organic products by transitioning to “natural branding” – a process of applying a label using a laser. This innovation reduced plastic packaging of butternut squash alone by 2 tonnes each year, and eliminates 13 tonnes of packaging each year across all categories. In the Netherlands, Albert Heijn aims to reduce the weight of all packaging by 5% in 2018 and by 15% by 2020. And one way they deliver on this is with the design of a new, lighter, top seal for ready to eat fruit, which will save 300 tonnes of plastic per year as from 2018. Innovations were also made across the Albert Heijn laundry care line, where new concentrated formulas reduced the need for 42 tonnes of plastic each year.
Our brands in the EU no longer distribute carrier bags for free, and our brands in the US are also taking steps to reduce single-use carrier bags. In 2016, the Stop & Shop and Giant brands in the US reached a milestone of reducing one billion single-use bags over a five-year period through better bagging techniques and promoting the use of reusable bags with customers. All US brands provide and promote reusable bags.
For plastic waste generated within our stores and warehouses, our brands have strong systems in place to collect plastic pallet wrap and packaging for recycling. In 2017, we collected over 20,000 tonnes of plastic for recycling. Collecting all plastics is part of our overall goal to recycle 80% of total waste across our operations by 2020.