Innovative refill solution aims to reduce single-use plastic waste and reimagines how consumers shop for essential goods.
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.
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:
Dry goods, launched today with Aldi UK
A tareless 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.
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.
Designed to become a global standard, any supplier or retailer can use the solution, reducing costs, food waste and increasing the number of store types that can sell refills. This will enable fast adoption by the industry to make refills available to every customer in the UK.
There is still a 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, across all demographics, spend profiles and locations; and 73% of those who shop online.
While 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.
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 channels.
The Refill Coalition Joint Statement
“We’re delighted to be launching this new refill solution – initially into Aldi, followed by Ocado Retail’s online launch in January – 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 commercialization of refills which we know can play a significant role in the reduction of single-use plastic packaging.”
 Based on 2022 ONS figure of 28.2 million households in the UK
 Tareless meaning consumers don’t have to weigh their own container before refilling
 Based on 500g of rice
 Based on 500g of rice
 Opinium Research (2020) Sustainability and the Supermarket
 IDG (2021) How to help consumers adopt reusable packaging.
 Greenpeace (2020) Unpacked: how supermarkets can cut plastic packaging in half by 2025
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