New super bottle from LIDL: sustainable or just good marketing?


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Status: 05/12/2023 08:18 a.m

LIDL has received prominent support for a new campaign. Günther Jauch advertises a disposable bottle as environmentally friendly. But experts doubt that it is actually that ecological.

By Christof Dörr, hr, and Lorenz Bille, rbb

The Germans trust Günther Jauch – more than other celebrities. So it’s no wonder that LIDL hired him as the advertising face for a new environmental campaign: “Isn’t that a really good system for the environment? No new plastic. Much less CO2 consumption during transport. Less waste,” he says in the current promotional video for the “circulatory bottle”.

But the new commercial is met with criticism: Viola Wohlgemuth from Greenpeace finds it “poor” that Günther Jauch volunteers for such things. “LIDL doesn’t invest because the group wants to be sustainable. It’s all about profit,” she says.

Wolf Tiedemann, a member of the LIDL board, does not deny that at all. However, the new LIDL system is still really good for the environment: “With the recirculation bottle, we have established a system that is proven to be one of the most ecological on the market. We don’t shy away from any comparison.”

The old argument: disposable vs. reusable

What LIDL claims would turn the recycling world upside down. Because until now it was always clear: the ecological balance of the reusable system is significantly better. Plastic returnable bottles can be filled up to 25 times, glass bottles even up to 50 times. One-way returnable bottles, on the other hand, are, as the name suggests, only used once.

LIDL is declaring war on this system and can immediately record a big plus: After being returned to a LIDL deposit machine, the bottles are pressed small for transport. “Around 400,000 bottles fit on one truck. For returnables, you would have to use 26 trucks for that!” says Tiedemann. In addition, the cycle is almost closed, and there is hardly any plastic loss. Also because, according to studies, 98.5 percent of one-way returnable bottles in Germany are returned.

Plastic waste is already polluting the oceans.

A plastic climate revolution?

However, environmental organizations such as Greenpeace in particular are critical of the LIDL campaign. “We don’t want to optimize the one-way system, we want to get away from plastic,” says activist Wohlgemuth: “What happens here is like not washing a dirty sweater, but unraveling it and knitting a new sweater out of the wool at the end . This is not sustainable. Sustainable is reusable, and a plastic bottle will never be!”

Yes, says LIDL. In order to be able to prove this, a study was commissioned from the Institute for Energy and Environmental Research, which also advises the Federal Ministry for the Environment. The result: LIDL’s reusable bottles save at least 20 percent CO2 compared to the PET reusable bottles examined. Compared to commercially available returnable glass bottles, CO2 emissions are almost halved.

Professor Sebastian Klaus from the Berlin University of Applied Sciences also took a close look at the LIDL system: “In the past, the reusable systems were clearly better. With the new recycling processes, one-way has caught up a lot and the reusable system has also been partially overtaken. That’s why it’s no longer possible to make general statements today decide whether reusable is better or disposable.”

According to a Bundestag decision, manufacturers of single-use plastic should pay for disposal in the future.

Why does LIDL charge so much for this?

LIDL says they have invested 100 million euros in this system, all “for the love of nature,” as the ad says. “LIDL is simply trying to prevent or block new legislation with this greenwashing, with this commissioned study and with Günther Jauch. There should be a new packaging law that leads to less plastic waste and to real reusable products,” claims Greenpeace activist Wohlgemuth.

In fact, the European Union has presented a plan for a multiple-use obligation for retailers. This obligation would mean that discounters like LIDL would also have to offer reusable systems in the future. That would be expensive and labor intensive. However, LIDL board member Tiedemann denies that the current campaign is a reaction to the EU reusable plans: “Our campaign for the recyclable bottle is aimed at Germany because we are also having a discussion here in Germany about what the more ecological system is.

By the way: If you care about nature, you should simply reach for the tap water. This is safe to drink in Germany and is delivered directly to your home without packaging.

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