Last Refreshed: 6/24/2024 5:32:22 AM
Brand Story

Earth Day 2024: Planet vs. Plastics

April 22, 2024 - This year’s Earth Day is all about the theme of plastics. For Ahold Delhaize and our local brands, this is a topic close to home. Different types of packaging, such as glass, paper, aluminum and plastic, are used to pack the hundreds of thousands of products sold by our brands. In the case of plastic, there is often a dilemma: on the one hand we need a plastic packaging to ensure product quality and safety, and on the other hand we need to reduce the single-use of plastic and prevent it from becoming waste or pollution. Across the globe, millions of tons of plastic end up in landfills, burned or leaked into the environment – and that amount is rising every year 

We recognize our role in moving towards a circular economy, focusing on eliminating unnecessary plastic, switching to reusable and/or recyclable packaging, and increasing the use of recycled content in own-brand plastic packaging. 

Collaboration across the value chain 

Ahold Delhaize has joined large consumer goods companies as signatories to the Global Commitment, led by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation in collaboration with the UN Environment Programme, to collaborate with key players in the value chain. This group is, along with our input, currently shaping the next phase of the Global Commitment, which will shape the focus of further circularity efforts of our industry.

We also work with several network organizations to find solutions for sustainable packaging. Some of our brands are members of national Plastics 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 and the Sustainable Packaging Coalition, a membership-based collaborative that believes in the power of industry to make packaging more sustainable.

Leading by example 
  • Alfa Beta launched a new type of paper packaging for its “AB think BIO” organic tomatoes, apples and pears that has the potential to save more than 4,000 kilos of plastic annually. At Albert Heijn, plastic bread clips were replaced by paper. 
  • An example of our brands collaborating across the value chain is Albert Heijn’s collaboration with Avantium N.V., a technology company in sustainable chemistry, to make packaging more sustainable. To this end, Avantium’s 100% plant-based and polyethylene furanoate (PEF) is being used for various forms of packaging. The first application will be Albert Heijn’s new fruit juice bottle made out of PEF, to be introduced in the brand’s stores once Avantium’s commercial plant for PEF is operational. Albert Heijn is the first supermarket chain in the world to introduce PEF packaging for its own-brand products. 
  • Delhaize partners with Fost Plus and major coffee brands to recycle coffee caps. In 2023 Delhaize joined forces to collect and recycle the aluminum and plastic coffee capsules still containing coffee grit in a sustainable way. As a result, the caps have been allowed in the blue bag (PMD) since 2023 and are recycled. Delhaize is the first retailer to join such an initiative.  
  • Food Lion partnered with Sealed Air, Fieldale Farms and ExxonMobil on an advanced collection, recycling and reuse initiative. This pilot turned flexible plastics collected from nearly 180 Food Lion stores serviced by a DC in Greenville, South Carolina, into new food-grade packaging that is put back into the supply chain in a continuous cycle, diverting it from landfills. After a viable pilot, the process is now being evaluated for scale throughout Ahold Delhaize. This circular solution for food packaging waste was the first of its kind in the United States.  
Our targets and progress 

Ahold Delhaize has set 3 targets around plastics: 

  1. By 2025, our brands aim to reduce the use of virgin plastic in their own brand primary product packaging by 5% compared to the 2021 baseline. 
  2. 25% of our total own-brand primary plastic packaging weight will be made from recycled content by 2025. 
  3. 100% of primary own-brand plastic packaging is reusable, recyclable or compostable in practice and at scale by 2025. 

The Global Commitment 2023 Progress Report concluded that while strong progress is being made in some areas, the 2025 target of 100% reusable, recyclable, or compostable plastic packaging will almost certainly be missed by most organizations, including Ahold Delhaize. 

The main reasons for this are because there is a lack of needed infrastructure and availability of flexible packaging. Furthermore, achieving the target of 25% recycled content has been a challenge not only for us, but also for other retailers and CPGs. The main barriers include the limited access to high quality, large-scale quantity (and food-grade), certified PCR packaging and the high price of post-consumer recycled materials.  

For this reason, we have set an additional reduction target on virgin own-brand plastic product packaging, as this is something we have direct control over and that has a direct impact on reducing our footprint. 

In 2023, our brands reduced the use of virgin plastic in their own-brand primary product packaging by 10.3% compared to 2022. 

Continued focus on our commitments 

The realization of not meeting all of our initial targets underscores the urgency to accelerate action. We will continue to work with the Ellen MacArthur Foundation. Through this global working group, collaboration with suppliers and producers, and sharing of best practices within and outside of Ahold Delhaize, we continue to learn more from each other on how to reduce packaging and plastics. Next to that, we are happy to now also be part of the Business Coalition for a Global Plastics Treaty – convened by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation and the WWF. A coalition which gives voice to over 200 businesses across the plastics value chain, financial institutions and NGO partners. Together, we are asking for an ambitious UN treaty that brings plastics into a circular economy, stopping them becoming waste or pollution. 

Please find more information about our approach on plastics in our Annual Report 

Last Refreshed: 6/24/2024 5:32:22 AM
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