Tuesday 22 October 2019

Major Irish retailers working to reduce packaging

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Markus Krug

Irish retailers are trying to reduce packaging and replace plastics, while some are trying their hand at unpackaged items and refill stations.

Several of Ireland’s large retail companies have been presenting plans to make their existing packaging more environmentally friendly.

“We have committed to ensuring that 100pc of our own label packaging will be recyclable, reusable or compostable by 2022,” said John Curtin, Group Buying Director with Aldi Ireland.

Similarly, SuperValu, Tesco and Lidl Ireland have set out to replace their current packaging materials with “recyclable, reusable or compostable” options by 2025.

In addition to that, Lidl has also introduced in-store recycling stations “to reduce packaging waste bought in-store.” The stations have been available in all Lidl Ireland stores since the end of May.

The stations will give customers the chance to “remove any unwanted recyclable packaging and to recycle it free-of-charge in-store once they have completed their shopping.”

SuperValu also has further plans in place in order to eliminate packaging of some products all together.

“SuperValu retailers have more loose items available for sale compared to any other grocery retailer in Ireland. This means that there are many loose items that customers can put in their own containers, such as fruit and veg products,” described a spokesperson.

“We are also currently trialling the sale of more loose items -  so for example, in SuperValu Clonakilty customers can buy loose coffee, spices, tea, pulses and cheeses. We are also trialling a water refill station in one of our stores.”

In this trialling stage they might look at the experiences of smaller retailers like the Dublin Food Co-op where unpackaged foods have been a stable ever since the formation of the Co-op 36 years ago.

“Almost everything we sell in regards to foods and vegetables is packaging free. In general we have a huge zero waste section in our shops,” said Aoife Hammond, General Manager of the Dublin Food Co-op.   

She added: “That includes everything from grains to almonds; just bring your own bag and refill. Same with washing liquids, shampoos or conditioners; bring your own container and fill them up.”

Additionally the Co-op sells goods that are usually wrapped or in a box, like soap bars, without packaging and therefore waste-free.

The zero waste approach pays off, with the Food Co-op “doubling sales in the packaging free section from 2017 to 2018” and looking to repeat this increase again this year.

While it might take a while before these refill stations and packaging free products become a mainstay in Ireland, Aoife Hammond welcomes the changes.

“I think it is really important that the bigger chains are taking up that challenge as well. The more supermarkets go down that route the better.”

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