WRAP (The Waste & Resources Action Programme)

Potential refill solutions for the food and non-food retail sectors – feasibility study

Refill systems have the potential to significantly reduce both retail packaging waste and product waste. This favours the selection of high volume products that show significant potential weight savings. Such systems involve the initial sale of products in a dispensing container such as a trigger spray or a pump dispenser, with customers encouraged to purchase a simple container to refill the original dispenser. In their simplest form, refill systems could be a pack where the spray or pump can be transferred from the original container to a new container of the same size and design as the original but with a screw cap in place of the dispense mechanism.

To optimise the cost and waste savings for retailers and consumers, the refill pack needs to be carefully designed to provide added value to the consumer. It will typically be of a different construction to the original pack. Where possible the refill should be a bulk pack capable of multiple refills to maximise the savings.

This study examined existing systems in use in the USA, Australia, New Zealand, mainland Europe and the UK. Potential refill systems and products suitable for such dispensing were evaluated for their suitability for use within the UK retail sector using the information obtained from this survey.

The report presents a range of refill concepts suitable for the UK supermarket retail sector, giving the advantages, disadvantages and potential commercial benefits for each concept in order to make a case to retailers that such systems are commercially feasible. The report also identifies potential barriers and constraints to the wider implementation of refill systems in the UK and proposes solutions that may overcome or mitigate these barriers and constraints.

A number of possible products (food and non-food) suitable for refillable packaging are presented and a range of potential pack types are proposed for each of the three target markets selected – grocery (food and non-food), health & beauty and DIY.

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