Lidl is lagging behind competitors when it comes to plastic packaging waste. Compared to the UK’s other nine biggest supermarkets, Lidl’s own-brand products have the most packaging that’s not widely recyclable.
A study conducted by consumer analysts Which? found that 71% of Lidl’s packaging was classed as widely recyclable, while 22% was non-recyclable. In comparison, budget rivals Aldi came halfway up the table, with 76% of packaging considered widely recyclable by the researchers while 18% was listed as non-recyclable.
At the other end of the scale, Morrisons was named the most environmentally-friendly supermarket in terms of plastic, with 81% of own-brand products in widely recyclable packaging and 12% in non-recyclable.
To gather their results, researchers ordered a basket of 27 of the most popular own-brand groceries from 10 of the UK’s biggest supermarket chains. They then unwrapped the products, weighed the packaging and consulted a recycling expert in order to analyse what percentage of the materials was recyclable by weight.
The researchers found a wide variation in types of packaging used for the same items. For example, Aldi, Iceland and Lidl all packaged their beef mince in black plastic, which is not recyclable. Waitrose packaged its beef mince in a non-recyclable plastic wrapper. The other six supermarkets all used widely-recyclable clear plastic trays, but combined this with non-recyclable plastic film lids. Easy-peel oranges were the worst food offenders, with all 10 supermarkets selling the fruit in non-recyclable nets.
The team also noted inconsistencies in the labelling of recycling information, potentially making it difficult for consumers to make environmentally-friendly choices.
“Different systems of labelling were used. Some items weren’t labelled at all,” they said. “Others were incorrectly labelled and still more had labels which were only visible once the food was unwrapped – not helpful to those trying to make a considered choice in the supermarket aisle.”
In response to the report, a spokesperson for Lidl said in a statement: “We fully support the need to tackle the important issue of plastic waste, which is why we recently launched our ambitious plastic reduction targets and have a task force in place, who are dedicated to delivering these commitments.
“We are in the process of conducting a comprehensive review of our entire packaging footprint, and estimate that the vast majority of our packaging is widely recyclable under the industry standard OPRL (On Pack Recycling Labelling) scheme. We therefore do not believe that the small sample used in the report is representative or reflective of our full product range.”