Unilever has launched its largest European refill trial to date in a supermarket in the north of England.

The Asda supermarket in Leeds has become a flagship sustainability store with a ‘Refill Zone’ supported by Unilever and personal care brand Beauty Kitchen.

Unilever said the trial is a real-world “test and learn” opportunity to understand what works best for consumers in a retail environment. It is offering refills for seven of its brands – Persil, PG Tips, Radox, Cif, Simple, Pukka, and Alberto Balsam.

Developed by Beauty Kitchen, there are touch-free refill machines for Radox shower gel, Simple liquid handwash, and Alberto Balsam shampoo and conditioner. Persil laundry liquid is dispensed in reusable aluminium or stainless steel bottles via three machines.

First-time shoppers are provided with a bottle while returning customers reuse their existing bottles. Once filled, shoppers add a printed label to the bottle. Each bottle has a unique QR code, which enables Unilever to track the full buy, use, and refill process and gain better insight into the circular model.

Together, the three refill stations could save the equivalent of 30,000 plastics water bottles per year in just one store, Unilever claimed.

For Cif, Unilever is offering an in-home ‘ecorefills’ refill experience. The Asda store is providing shoppers with a bay dedicated to the ten times concentrated refill for sprays, which enable them to use a Cif spray bottle for life.

Ecorefills use 75 per cent fewer plastics than the standard cleaning bottle and mean 87 per cent fewer trucks on the road, Unilever said. An entire fixture of ten times concentrated spray cleaners across the Asda estate could save 990 tonnes of plastics every year, it added.

Unilever tea brands PG Tips and Pukka are available through self-serve containers or hoppers for loose tea, and tongs for biodegradable teabags. Shoppers bring their own reusable container into the store or buy one there. Once their container is full, they take it to the weighing station where a label is printed ready for payment at the checkout.

Sebastian Munden, executive vice-president of Unilever UK & Ireland, said the partnership with Asda is a great opportunity to find out just how shoppers respond to using refillable and reusable packaging in-store.

“We are all committed to driving lasting change when it comes to plastics, but to do so we must create scalable solutions and make it as easy as possible for people to make sustainable choices,” Munden said.

“On our journey to halving our use of virgin plastics by 2025, we will have to be bold and totally rethink products and packaging, and we will only do that by testing a range of solutions with shoppers in real-life conditions.”

The trial is part of Unilever UK & Ireland’s #GetPlasticWise campaign, a five-point plan to accelerate progress towards Unilever’s global 2025 plastics targets. As a member of the UK Plastics Pact, Unilever said it is committed to halving its use of virgin plastics and ensuring all of its plastics packaging is fully reusable, recyclable, or compostable by 2025.

Concerns over plastics waste remain high in the UK. Plastics waste is the top global environmental concern for shoppers, according to a Kantar report from June this year, with 60 per cent claiming they will use a refill if it is available.

Source: plasticsinpackaging.com