THE INNOVATIVE REFILL SOLUTION REIMAGINES THE WAY CONSUMERS
SHOP FOR ESSENTIAL PRODUCTS
As part of its shared mission to fight single-use plastic packaging waste, the UK Refill Coalition today launched a pilot at Aldi UK in its Solihull store.
Refills are seen as a key component in tackling single-use plastic packaging waste. If every household in the UK refilled just one item per week, this would eliminate over 1.4 billion items of single-use packaging per year (1).
The solution – a reusable bulk vessel - has been developed to deliver refills at scale for key food staples (e.g., cereals and pasta) and household products (e.g., cleaning and personal care products), removing single-use plastic packaging when moving goods from supplier to customer and driving efficiencies. This allows retailers to sell refill products at a cheaper price than their packaged equivalents – all customers need to do is bring their own containers. Subject to a successful trial, Coalition retailers intend to roll out refill stations in their stores and online.
The Refill Coalition is Aldi UK, Ocado Retail, and the supply chain solutions company CHEP and was convened in 2020 by GoUnpackaged, the UK’s leading refill experts. The Coalition has partnered with leading global manufacturers Berry Global, DIGI and Eden and Trade Fixtures who have developed new equipment to create the solution and is supported by UKRI’s Smart Sustainable Plastic Packaging Challenge fund, delivered by Innovate UK.
The Coalition’s vessel will facilitate three key new solutions:
● An in-store refill system for:
o Dry goods, launched today with Aldi UK
o A tareless 2 weighing system and liquids dispense, in development for launch next year
● A bulk home delivery refill solution, being launched by Ocado Retail early next year.
The in-store solution will replace current bulk dispensers with reusable vessels located at a refill station that can be filled and shipped with the product. Customers are invited to bring their own packaging to refill at the station, using an improved easy weighing system. Each reusable vessel replaces 24 single-use plastic packs. (3)
The online consumer sized vessel is pre-filled with product by the supplier and shipped to customers alongside the rest of their Ocado order, then returned to the Ocado driver when empty. Each consumer sized vessel replaces 5 single-use plastic packs. (4)
Designed to become a global standard, the solution can be used by any supplier or retailer, reducing costs, food waste and increasing the number of store types that can sell refills. This will enable fast adoption by industry to make refills available to every customer in the UK.
There is still strong customer appetite for alternative choices when it comes to packaging. Research shows that 67% - 85% of UK adults would try refilling if it was available in a mainstream supermarket (5) , across all demographics, spend profiles and locations; and 73% of those who shop online (6).
Whilst supermarkets have done much to reduce plastic packaging, Greenpeace figures estimate that at least 56.5 billion units of single-use plastic packaging are sold by the UK grocery market each year (7)
Following the busy Christmas trading period, industry colleagues will be invited to visit the live solution in early 2024 to learn more about the critical “behind the scenes” supply chain innovation for both in-store and online.
The Refill Coalition has jointly made the following statement: "We're delighted to be launching this new refill solution - initially into Aldi, followed by Ocado Retail’s online launch early next year– a system we’re proud to have worked on for over three years to bring to market. As a Coalition we share the mutual objective of reducing single-use plastic packaging and believe that the solution we have developed presents a landmark opportunity for us to make a step change in the commercialisation of refills which we know can play a significant role in the reduction of single-use plastic packaging.”
Luke Emery, Plastics and Packaging Director at Aldi: “We are pleased to have installed the first in-store refill solution as part of the Refill Coalition in our Solihull store. We are continuing our work to reduce single-use plastics and packaging, and making unpackaged product options more commonplace for our customers is a key part of this.”
Rachel Cox-Reynolds, Director of Own-Brand, Technical and Sustainability at Ocado Retail: "It's been a pleasure to join forces with our industry peers in the Coalition with the mutual objective of reducing single-use plastic packaging. We're proud that Ocado will be leading the concept for online deliveries in the new year, making it easier than ever for customers to refill everyday staples from the convenience of their doorsteps."
Alasdair Hamblin, General Manager, Northern Europe at CHEP: "I am thrilled to see our collective vision as the Refill Coalition brought to life with the launch of this trial. CHEP’s business is defined by our sustainable, circular economy model of share and reuse. This pilot phase is an invaluable opportunity to collaborate and test that model in a new environment. Together with our partners, we are committed to redefining industry standards, reducing single-use plastic packaging and forging a regenerative supply chain where we move more with less for a better tomorrow."
Catherine Conway, Director at GoUnpackaged: “We’re so proud to have convened the Coalition and brought a brand-new solution to market that has the potential for adoption across a global supply chain. The Coalition has worked tirelessly since 2020, and overcome numerous obstacles, to reach this go live point. An industry-wide approach will lead to a refill system that works for everyone in the supply chain and make refilling easier for shoppers.”
Paul Davidson, Director, Smart Sustainable Plastic Packaging Challenge: “We are delighted to be supporting this collaborative, full supply chain initiative that is working to develop a complete solution for refill in the grocery sector. With the launch of Aldi UK’s first in-store trial, and more to come, the Refill Coalition is making a major contribution to the mainstreaming of refill and giving retailers and consumers an easy and convenient refill solution to help reduce single-use packaging.”
- (1) Based on 2022 ONS figure of 28.2 million households in the UK
- (2) Tareless meaning consumers don’t have to weigh their own container before refilling
- (3) Based on 500g of rice
- (4) Based on 500g of rice
- 5 Opinium Research (2020) Sustainability and the Supermarket
- 6 IDG (2021) How to help consumers adopt reusable packaging.
- 7 Greenpeace (2020) Unpacked: how supermarkets can cut plastic packaging in half by 2025