Aldi Plastic Fruit and Veggie Bags to Cost a 'Symbolic' Cent
By Wesley Rahn
Thin plastic produce bags are often used only once to carry fruits and vegetables home from the supermarket, and are then thrown away without a second thought.
Supermarket chain Aldi on Tuesday said that it would begin charging 1 cent for single-use plastic produce bags, starting this summer. It didn't offer an exact date. The company said it wanted its customers to "rethink" using smaller plastic bags.
The produce bags on offer will now be composed of biodegradable natural plastic made with raw material leftover from sugar production. Aldi supermarkets will also start offering a reusable alternative, nets to hold fresh fruit and vegetables, later in the year.
According to the German Environment Ministry, more than 3 billion of the thin plastic produce bags were used in 2018. That equates to roughly 40 per person, per year.
German Environment Minister Svenja Schulze told Germany's dpa press agency that the move by Aldi was a positive sign that her policy to get German retailers to use less plastic was working.
"I have asked retailers to present me with concrete ideas by autumn on how supermarkets could clearly reduce the amount of plastic packaging in an ecologically sensible manner," said Schulze.
Symbolic Cents Against Plastic
Around three years ago, Aldi — like many other German supermarkets — decided to charge customers for larger plastic grocery bags at the register. According to the company, the use of the plastic bags in Germany has dropped since by two-thirds. Aldi cited this as evidence for the payment system bearing fruit.
"We are following a similar principle with the symbolic cent for our disposable plastic fruit and vegetable bags," said Kristina Bell, an Aldi corporate responsibility director, in a press release.
German environmental activists, however, said Aldi's initiative didn't go far enough.
Environmental Action Germany (DUH), a German environmental activism group, said in a statement released Tuesday, that Aldi's move was "purely a symbolic policy" and would not be effective in getting consumers to stop using the bags.
"If Aldi is serious about protecting the environment, then the single-use produce bags should cost at least 22 cents," said DUH's acting director, Barbara Metz, in a press release. "This amount would actually mean the end for this particularly short-lived product."
DUH cited Ireland as an example, where a fee of 22 cents for larger shopping bags drastically reduced their usage. The group argued that if a fee of more than 20 cents worked with normal-sized bags, it would be especially effective with the smaller produce bags.
Reposted with permission from our media associate Deutsche Welle.
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Jean-Marc Neveu and Olivier Civil never expected to find themselves battling against disposable mask pollution.
When they founded their recycling start-up Plaxtil in 2017, it was textile waste they set their sights on. The project developed a process that turned fabrics into a new recyclable material they describe as "ecological plastic."
Mounting Piles of Waste<p>It is not only the streets of Chatellerault where pandemic pollution is piling-up, but also the world's beaches and oceans. Once there, they can take up to 450 years to degrade and disappear.</p><p>Esther Röling, co-organizer of the annual Adventure Clean Up Challenge held on Hong Kong Island, has seen this waste firsthand. In October the sports challenge pitted teams against one another in a competition to remove trash from 13 hard-to-reach coastal areas around the city.</p><p>They find tons of both disposable and reusable masks, said Röling. "You wonder how it ended up there. Was it just thrown on the ground? Or was it in a garbage bag that broke open?"</p><p>Almost 10,000 kilometers away in Antibes on the sunny French Riviera, it's a similar picture. For the past few months, divers and clean-up volunteers working with an ocean clean-up non-profit called Operation Mer Propre have been collecting an increasing number of masks found on land and in the sea.</p><p>"Since the beginning of the lockdown when we started to count, we've reached 800, 900, [and now in total] 1000 masks," said co-founder Joko Peltier. </p><p>According to <a href="https://unctad.org/news/growing-plastic-pollution-wake-covid-19-how-trade-policy-can-help" target="_blank">UN estimates</a>, up to 75% of all coronavirus-related plastic could end up as waste in oceans and landfills.</p>
The Limits of Recycling<p>Yet not all are convinced the recycling of this waste is possible on a global scale. </p><p>"What those citizen groups are doing is really beneficial but once they collect it, it should just go to a landfill or an incinerator. They shouldn't necessarily expect it to get recycled," said Jonathan Krones, an industrial ecologist and visiting assistant professor of environmental studies at Boston College.</p><p>That's because mask recycling programs like Plaxtil are few and far between and most don't have the benefit of a readily adaptable production process. </p><p>Even in countries with solid recycling infrastructure, he says, the system is designed to separate out specific types of waste like bottles or cardboard.</p><p>"I imagine that it would be technically feasible to develop a separation process to filter out masks, but there simply aren't enough of them to make that economical," he said.</p><p>Collection is a big hurdle, he adds. Since each mask only weighs a fraction of a gram and they're scattered on roads or mixed with other trash, it is difficult and costly. </p><p>"You need a lot of raw material of the right quality to make investing in the recycling technology and the recycling system worthwhile," he said.<span></span><br></p>
Hemp, Sugar Cane and Sustainable Alternatives<p>Some projects are instead addressing the material used to make masks.</p><p>French company Geochanvre have created a mask made primarily from hemp, while in Australia, researchers at the Queensland University of Technology are experimenting with a disposable product made from agricultural waste. </p><p>Biodegradable options are exciting alternatives to reduce the fossil fuels needed for the creation of plastic-based masks, said Krones, but they don't absolve the wearer from the responsibility of what happens afterwards. </p><p>Bio-based masks often need their own composing solutions, he explains, because in landfill they can produce high amounts of the greenhouse gas methane when anaerobic bacteria feeds on the organic material. Methane is known to be significantly more potent than carbon dioxide.</p><p>"I think as long as we have in our mind that we want to have disposability, we're going to have to wrestle with a variety of different sorts of environmental tradeoffs," he said, adding that reusable, fabric masks are the best option available to most people.</p><p>Precimask is developing a clear face covering with an optional visor made from hard plastic, designed to be long-lasting.<br></p><p>Air enters either side of the cheeks through a technology normally found in pool filters and car exhaust systems, said company spokeswoman Juliette Chambet.</p><p>"We wanted to make ceramic-based filters that would be washable and cleanable, which would allow them to be reused as many times as desired without having to buy a new consumable or produce waste," she said. </p><p>Ultimately, encouraging mask wearers to think about the entire lifecycle of a mask is key, explains Neveu. </p><p>"We want people who put on the masks to realize that they are also responsible for the waste, he said. "It's not inevitable that this [pandemic] will become an environmental catastrophe.</p><p><em>Reposted with permission from </em><em><a href="https://www.dw.com/en/covid-19-recycling-pollution-trash-pandemic/a-55707817" target="_blank">Deutsche Welle</a>.</em><a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/r/entryeditor/2649032193#/" target="_self"></a></p>
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