Across the globe, millions of tonnes of plastic end up in landfills, burned or leaked into the environment – and that amount is rising every year. Our brands continue to improve their own-brand product packaging by switching to more environmentally friendly materials or reusable packaging, eliminating unnecessary plastic packaging and increasing the use of post-consumer recycled content. We follow a clear framework focused on moving towards a more circular system by reducing, reusing and recycling the packaging materials we use.
Our brands have a number of initiatives in place that help us reduce plastic use. In 2021, in the U.S., The GIANT Company, Hannaford and Stop & Shop stores serviced from a distribution center in Freetown, Massachusetts, transitioned their own-brand commodity fresh chicken program from EPS foam trays to more easily recyclable PET rigid trays, diverting an estimated 450 metric tons of foam from the waste stream annually. Food Lion and Giant Food are scheduled to transition their commodity chicken program away from foam trays in 2022. The GIANT Company, Giant Food, Hannaford and Stop & Shop also transitioned their Nature’s Promise organic fresh chicken program from EPS foam trays to PET rigid trays, diverting an estimated 15 metric tons of foam from the waste stream.
In Europe, Albert Heijn became the first retailer in the Czech Republic to offer refillable containers. Customers can choose from more than eighty dry food and drugstore items that can be taken home in refillable containers instead of disposable packaging. Recently, Albert Heijn launched a new concept in three of its stores, where customers can also do a large part of their daily shopping by filling reusable bags or jars. The new concept consists of a packaging-free range of 70 dry ingredients products in smart dispensers. In 2022, another fifty stores will roll out this concept.
Our brands are also reducing single-use plastics used for carrier bags. In 2021, Albert Heijn was the first large supermarket in the Netherlands to announce it would stop using plastic bags for fruit and vegetables, and offer reusable alternatives to its customers. Since May 2022, all fruit and vegetable departments across Albert Heijn have stopped offering free plastic bags. This initiative saves 130 million bags – or 243,000 kilos of plastic – per year.
We pledged to eradicate plastic waste and pollution at the source through the New Plastics Economy Global Commitment (“The Global Commitment”) in 2018. The Global Commitment has united more than 500 organizations behind a common vision of a circular economy for plastics. Driven by the goal of tackling plastic pollution at its source, companies representing 20% of all plastic packaging produced globally have committed to ambitious 2025 targets to help realize this vision. The Global Commitment is led by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, in collaboration with the UN Environment Programme. Through the Global Commitment, businesses and governments commit to changing how we produce, use and reuse plastic. The organizations are working to eliminate the plastic items we do not need; innovate so all plastic we do need is designed to be safely reused, recycled or composted; and circulate everything we use to keep it in the economy and out of the environment.
In addition, we work with several organizations to find and create solutions for sustainable packaging. For example, we collaborated with the Packaging Waste Fund Foundation to research the viability of PET tray recycling at Albert Heijn. We also worked together with Fost Plus in Belgium to look at ways of increasing recycling rates and removing plastics that disrupt recycling. In addition, some of our brands are members of national plastic pacts that are implementing solutions towards a circular economy for plastic. For example, Albert Heijn is a member of the Dutch Plastics pact, while Ahold Delhaize USA is a member of the U.S. Plastics Pact. Moreover, Ahold Delhaize USA is a member of the Sustainable Packaging Coalition, a membership-based collaborative that believes in the power of industry to make packaging more sustainable.