Aldi eliminates hazardous chemicals from textile production

Aldi, one of the top ten discounters worldwide and with a growing share of the UK grocery market, has today pledged to ban all hazardous chemicals from their textile and shoe production by 2020. The company released a detailed action plan [1] in response to the demands of the Greenpeace Detox Campaign.

Greenpeace Germany textiles expert, Kirsten Brodde, said:

“In the discount retail game Aldi is a huge player. Now Aldi has accepted that their textiles must be produced without toxic chemicals. Let’s see if other discount retailers will follow Aldi’s lead.”

Aldi scored poorly when Greenpeace tested children’s clothing and children’s shoes from various discounters for hazardous chemicals last fall [2]. In a discount store shopping guide [3], Greenpeace also found that the company was lagging behind in terms of the recyclability of its textiles, social standards and the use of raw materials, like cotton.

As part of their commitment, Aldi agreed to completely ban dangerous pollutants such as alkylphenolethoxylates (APEOs) by the end of June 2016. Once released into the environment, APEOs degrade to substances highly toxic to aquatic organisms. Per- and polyfluorinated chemicals that can harm the immune and reproductive systems will be eliminated from its textiles by the end of 2016 at the latest. In order to inform the people around the factories about the chemicals in their waterways, 80 percent of Aldi’s suppliers are required to disclose their wastewater data by the end of March 2016. This obligation relates to Aldi’s entire own-brand range of textiles and shoes. It also covers all household textiles such as towels or bedding. Aldi is even looking to establish a program for “sustainable consumption by the end of June 2016.

Lidl, Rewe/Penny, and the retail giant Tchibo have already responded to the Greenpeace campaign and announced they will Detox their production. Tchibo even wants to introduce a take-back and recycling program. This is all the more important in view of the discounters’ rapidly growing textile business: Every week, budget supermarkets dump huge quantities of textiles and shoes at low prices on the market.

“With Aldi, Lidl and Penny cleaning up their acts, the whole discount sector is shifting towards clean textile production. Distancing themselves from throw-away fashion – this is what we now expect from the world’s largest retailers, Wal-Mart, Carrefour and Tesco,” said Brodde.

31 leading international fashion companies including six Italian suppliers have pledged to Greenpeace to clean up their production by 2020. The wastewater from textiles factories pollutes waters worldwide. The problem is particularly serious in the producing countries in Asia. In China some two-thirds of all waters are contaminated with hazardous chemicals, mainly from the textile industry.

In its textile business, Aldi has annual sales of 2.5 billion euros – almost ten percent of its total sales of 27.5 billion euros in Germany alone.