We’re making good progress towards our ambitious target of ensuring that all our plastic packaging is reusable, recyclable or compostable. Our commitment to remove 100,000 tonnes of plastic packaging entirely is also driving a shift in our packaging formats towards reuse and refill solutions.
But we’re often asked why we can’t go further and faster. One question that keeps coming up is about reusability.
We’re looking at how to introduce more reusable packaging. But there isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution. The ways in which people buy and use our products vary hugely from market to market, and even within the same market. Finding the right solutions depends on a host of factors. Where they live. How they shop. What they buy. Likewise, different product categories may work better on the go than at home.
Packaging is not just about transport; it also has to deliver on some really important jobs, such as keeping products safe, functional and high quality. Developing reusable packaging which delivers an equal, if not superior, user experience has been a design challenge but we're learning from every insight, and improving and evolving our plans.
We’re doing a lot of work to bring about a refill-reuse revolution as part of our much wider plan to create a circular economy for plastic. We have dedicated teams to accelerate this work and we’re investing in pilot programmes all over the world to find out what works.
We’re encouraging consumers to think of our cleaning and laundry products as a 'bottle for life'. For instance, our Cif spray bottles and our OMO 3-litre laundry bottles which are diluted at home with ultra-concentrated refills.
This allows us to give consumers the same products with much less plastic and conveniently smaller packaging, and they generally cost less to buy than standard size bottles. What’s more, when consumers dilute products at home, we transport far less water. This means fewer trucks on the road and therefore lower carbon emissions associated with the distribution of our products.
Our brands are challenging the throwaway culture in other ways too. Dove has started a beauty ‘refillution’ with its first-ever stainless steel refillable deodorant case which shoppers can buy once and use for life.
In-store, on the go
We’re also trialling in-store dispensing where an ever-increasing number of our brands are available at refill stations. Together with major retailers, we currently have trials running in 11 countries including our largest pilot in Europe: in Asda and Co-op stores in the UK. We also have vending machines in India where consumers can refill bottles of Surf Excel, Comfort and Vim.
Through these pilots, we’re collecting insights on which formats work best. We’re also looking at how we can communicate the environmental savings to encourage consumers to return and refill. Using on-pack QR codes, we can track the lifecycle of the bottle and the number of times it’s used, which we hope will also motivate shoppers to continue to refill and reuse.
Delivering what people really want
We’ve learnt that when it comes to refill-reuse, success depends on tailoring solutions, removing barriers to entry and keeping systems as simple as possible. To support the growth of these new formats, we need to work with consumers, customers, other businesses and governments to create the systems that allow these models to prosper.
Global change needs a whole system behind it. Governments have a critical role to play when it comes to setting standards for these systems and incentivising investment. These factors will have a significant impact on the acceptance and acceleration of reusable and refillable packaging. That’s why, alongside more than 70 other businesses, we’re calling for an ambitious and legally binding UN treaty – based on a circular economy approach – to tackle plastic pollution on a global scale.
Refill and reuse innovation is in its early days. We’re all still learning. But experimenting in real-world conditions has given us a lengthy list of insights – and an even lengthier to-do list. Now we want to build momentum and do everything we can to help bring about a refill-reuse revolution.
Discover more about how we’re rethinking plastic packaging