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The big throw away at Aldi

Wholesalers like to announce how carefully they handle the many foods whose sales date has expired. Janosch Fischer, the foodsharing.de the collection and distribution of surplus food has been organised and tested at Aldi stores.

Whitsunday in the morning. It is already dusk, the birds are in the middle of their morning concert. Crime Scene: Aldi Branch In Gals, Canton Of Bern. I put my bike and trailer on the edge of the abandoned parking lot and put on the gloves. It has to be fast. With a backpack and the blue Ikea bags, I go to the three containers that are placed against the wall and open them.

What I suspect, but do not hope: they are filled to the brim with fresh fruit and vegetables that have been carelessly thrown in. I’m not picky and grab what my hands are grabbing. The bins are half filled with mangoes from Brazil, Peruvian organic Avocados, apricots, peaches, and Peppers from Spain. In addition, there are fresh carrots, fennel, Kohlrabi, pears, etc.

With each passing car, the tension increases, this action is a tort. It takes until all bags are filled. I was able to save about 10 percent of the food that was thrown away. After ten days of cellar storage, the majority of the rescued products are still in perfect condition. The store would have had enough time to pass on the products.

Appeasement strategy

My waste sample at Aldi makes the group’S good-sounding PR statements implausible. He is a Partner in the initiative “Save Food, Fight Waste”, whose name should be the program:

“Avoiding food waste (…) has first priority. If, however, unsold food is produced, it is passed on first and used sensibly before it has to be disposed of in exceptional cases”

And Aldi writes:

“Products shortly before the expiration date are delivered to our customers with a discount of up to 50 percent … Foods which are shortly before the expiry date or which have defects in Form or packaging (not in quality) are mainly made available to charitable organisations and associations such as “Schweizer Tafel”, “Tischlein deck dich”, “RestEssBar” and “Caritas Markt”… Only goods that are no longer perfect are disposed of in containers..”

That sounds good. But at the few stores I know myself, larger quantities of faultless food regularly end up in the garbage cans. Often, the products do not carry any of the round, red “50%“discount adhesive on them. So they end up in the bin without any price reduction. Actually, all consumers could get a picture of themselves and take a look into the waste containers of Aldi, if they are not completed, which is unfortunately often the case. Aldi’s claim that the food is first discounted, then passed on to charitable organisations and only “disposed of in exceptional cases” proves in many cases to be a hollow promise.

Aldi does not address this specific accusation in his statement. A price reduction on products before the end of the last sales date depends on the “product group and remaining stock”. Aldi also claims that what ends up in the containers is “no longer to be classified as faultless”. This is not consistent with my experience. The rescued food was partly still several weeks edible, after they had landed at Aldi in the garbage.

The group also has no answer to the question of why surplus goods would not be handed over to employees at reduced rates, such as at Migros and Coop.

“Contacts to regional customers

Aldi passes on part of the unsold surplus. According to the group, 96 percent of the branches maintain “contacts with regional customers of surplus food”. Those who do not deal more deeply with the matter, introduce themselves among “regional customers” charitable organizations such as “Caritas” or the “Schweizer Tafel”. Aldi only provides specific information about these customers upon request. Out of a total of 214 branches, 150 pass on their surplus or part of it to farmers, 130 to boards. Numerous branches would rely on both forms of recycling. How much actually still lands on the plate remains unclear. According to the Federal Office for the environment (FoEN), only “a small proportion of food that can still be eaten […] is donated"in relation to all food surpluses.

High-quality food becomes Biogas and fertilizer

As part of my work at the platform foodsharing.de together with the association “Madame Frigo”, which organises the collection and distribution of surplus food, I was in negotiations with an Aldi branch in Bern in order to collect their surplus goods in the future and distribute them in Bern’s public fridges-yes, there really is. But the branch management decided to give all their surplus to a farmer, so that he can make fertilizer, animal feed or Biogas from it.

This practice is consistent with the FoEN’s figures: 84 percent of unsold food in the retail trade is converted into fertilizer or Biogas. The use of products packed in plastic for the production of Biogas is characterized by a poor efficiency. Another 8 percent of food waste ends up in the feeding trough. Zoos also receive unsold fresh products. The operator of a zoo, for example, undertakes to take all surpluses from an Aldi branch. He can feed a small part of it to his animals. The rest rot on the compost. If he is not allowed to pass on anything, the contract wants it. Three percent of the waste is incinerated in waste incineration plants. Only five percent remain, which are donated to charitable organizations.

“Save food with customers”

Aldi has put on a sustainability jacket and, according to its own statements, “sends a clear signal that we as a company support the fight against food waste”. What is meant is a digital PR brochure and website in which a “Food Ninja” gives tips and Tricks on behalf of Aldi to avoid waste in the kitchen. Right at the beginning, the reader is taught in large letters that every Swiss person throws food worth more than 600 francs into household waste every year.

Lidl, IG-Detailhandel Schweiz, Ikea, sv-group as well as the catering group zfv and Nestlé are also taking part in this PR appearance. But also the Swiss farmers ' Association IP-Suisse and Bio Suisse.

The strategy behind this is obvious. When it comes to Food Waste, the focus should not be on retailers or producers, but on consumers. “Food Ninja” admits: “we all cause Food Waste” and lists where, why and how much is lost in the supply chain.

The losses in retail trade are justified, among other things, by the fact that products exceed the shelf-life date or no longer look beautiful. Why even high-quality food ends up in the bin, as I had to find out time and again in my samples, remains unclear.

“Food Ninja” also points out that the environmental damage increases the later food is lost in the supply chain. This is due to increasing emissions from Transport and packaging. That is why avoiding Food Waste at the end of this chain, “e.g. in restaurants or in households […] is particularly important from an environmental perspective”. The retail trade is not mentioned here, although at this stage the main emissions from production, packaging and Transport have already taken place and avoiding Food Waste would therefore be just as important.

The food losses in the household are explained – rightly-by the fact that often “too much is bought”. “Food Ninja"conceals the fact that the retail trade is partly responsible for this by promoting the purchase of offers instead of a use-oriented purchase with its Special Offers and thereby enticing consumers to buy too much.

Manufacturers and retailers are thus trying to shift responsibility primarily to the end consumers. This is called” saving food with customers”.

In no case, however, should the customers fish food out of the garbage cans of Aldi. There, Aldi warns about the containers on posters:

Throw away the big one at aldi

“The removal/storage of waste from/in the containers is strictly prohibited! Any infringement will be reported to the police. The Area is under video surveillance. Simply Aldi.”

In fact, it would suffice to state that Aldi assumes no liability for these disposed foods. Because it applies, what the public prosecutor’s office Basel explained at the request of Greenpeace: “if someone throws food into a dumpster, which is to be sent exclusively for destruction, then anyone can dispose of it. It’s not a gift to the garbage disposal or anything like that. The owner of the food agrees to destruction. Thus, he gives up custody, and no new custody is established.”