'So proud': Woman's unexpected plastic bag victory at ALDI

After years of pleading with Australian supermarkets to cull unnecessary plastic, an Australian mother is celebrating a win, which has seen ALDI cut down on plastic produce bags nationwide.

Anita Horan is a plastic-free produce campaigner who encourages her sizeable social-media following to go “nude” when buying produce.

Ms Horan told Yahoo News Australia she believed bagging bananas at the supermarket was the pinnacle of insanity as they already came with their own disposable packaging.

“Every time you are buying a banana, you are literally peeling the packaging off and putting it in the compost. So to then put it in a synthetic bag is absolutely ludicrous,” Ms Horan told Yahoo News Australia.

Anita Horan, an Australian plastic reduction activist, posing with the bags on the right. ALDI has stopped giving out plastic bags for bananas (left is a stock image) after a trial triggered by her request.
Anita Horan has pushed for supermarkets to reduce the plastic produce bags to encourage people not use them. Source: Supplied/Anita Horan

A few days ago Ms Horan was shopping at an ALDI and she noticed the roll of produce bags were gone from the banana display. She was excited but she thought this was perhaps just a one-off.

It wasn’t until later that day Ms Horan said ALDI’s managing director Oliver Bonghardt called her and informed her the supermarket chain had trialled eliminating produce bags in front of the banana stand.

He also told her produce bags next to bananas would be removed at all ALDI stores in Australia.

When Ms Horan had the chance to speak with Mr Bonghardt six months ago, she asked him to remove the produce bags next to banana displays, thus eliminating the incentive for shoppers to bag them.

In a statement provided to Yahoo News Australia, ALDI confirmed they had decided to pull the produce bag from the banana displays.

“Last week, we removed the bags from banana displays across all of our stores,” an ALDI spokesperson told Yahoo News Australia.

“It was not our intention to publicise this and we simply shared the news with Anita directly.

“We acknowledge this is only a small step in an important journey of reducing plastic and we stand committed to quantify our impact on our goals later this year.”

A photo of the ALDI stand of the bananas after plastic produce bags were removed.
Ms Horan was very happy to see Aldi had removed the plastic produce bags from their banana display after she asked them to do so. Source: Supplied/Anita Horan

Ms Horan was invited by ALDI to attend a seminar which tackled sustainable packaging. She told Mr Bonghardt that by removing the bags from the banana display it would show ALDI was serious about reducing plastic.

According to Ms Horan, Mr Bonghardt said when ALDI trialled getting rid of the bags at two stores, they weren’t met with any criticism.

“I was so proud they [ALDI] had the courage to be the first ones to do this,” Ms Horan told Yahoo News Australia.

“Because they are risking customer backlash.”

Ms Horan explains it could go two ways for ALDI customers – they could embrace the decision and recognise there is a “plastic crisis”, or there would be customers who feel as if something free has been taken from them.

The exterior of an Aldi store, which has eliminated plastic produce bags at its banana stand.
ALDI confirmed to Yahoo News Australia the supermarket has removed all produce bags from banana displays across Australia. Source: Getty Images

ALDI’s plastic reduction target

As part of ALDI’s Plastic and Packaging Commitments, which were outlined in June last year, the company announced they would strive to reduce their plastic packaging by 25 per cent by 2025.

“At the time, plastics reduction advocate Anita Horan asked if the business could remove plastic produce bags from our banana stands as a simple yet impactful action toward reaching this goal,” the spokesperson said.

Ms Horan says she has been campaigning for supermarkets to reduce plastic for years and instead of seeing action in the aisles, she only ever receives the standard “we are making strides to reduce plastic” response.

The new ALDI change comes as a new plastic-free trial for supermarket fruit and vegetables could make its way into Woolworths stores across Australia.

In February, Countdown in New Zealand, a national supermarket chain part of the Woolworths Group, began a new ‘Unwrapped’ fruit and vegetable section at three stores where plastic packaging and single-use bags are replaced with paper and biodegradable alternatives.

When asked by Yahoo News Australia whether the trial would be implemented in Woolworths stores, a spokesperson said the trial’s results would influence how they progress the scheme.

ALDI’s decision comes amid an outbreak of hysteria surrounding the coronavirus spread, with people hoarding essentials such as toilet paper and taking an interest in personal hygiene.

“Putting your bananas in a plastic bag does not sterilise them,” Ms Horan said.

“We have this subconscious game we play with ourselves that if we bag it, it’s suddenly clean. That’s not the case.

“We can simply take a clean tea towel from home and lay it in our trolley.”

Last year Ms Horan petitioned the federal government to make it illegal for businesses to supply plastic produce bags for items which don’t need to be protected by plastic as their skin acts like a barrier.

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