Sustainability and circular economy experts Beauty Kitchen have partnered with multinational consumer goods specialist Unilever and retail giant Asda to trial three new refill stations across beauty, personal care and laundry products at Asda’s pioneering flagship sustainability store in Leeds.
Starting on October 20, 2020, the Asda Middleton store began operating a new Refill Zone supported by Unilever and Beauty Kitchen. As a lead partner in the trial, Unilever provided seven of its household-name brands including Persil, PG Tips, Radox, Cif, Simple, Pukka and Alberto Balsam.
The trial forms part of Unilever UK & Ireland’s #GetPlasticWise campaign, which promotes its five-point plastic plan to accelerate progress towards its global 2025 plastic targets.
As founding signatories of the UK Plastics Pact, Unilever believes that reducing plastic waste in the UK must be a collaborative effort across the whole supply chain, from suppliers, manufacturers and waste management companies right through to consumers.
Trialling three different refill formats, the Asda Middleton trial is currently the largest of its kind undertaken by Unilever in Europe and provides a real-world “test and learn” setting to help understand what works best for consumers in a retail environment.
Among the three different refill models trialled inside the store are touch-free refill machines, an in-home refill option provided for Cif products and self-serve containers for biodegradable PG Tips and Pukka teabags to be dispensed into.
The touch-free refill machines were developed by Beauty Kitchen to cater for beauty and personal care products along with Persil laundry liquid for the trial, all of which are dispensed in reusable aluminium or stainless-steel bottles via three machines using the Return, Refill, Repeat premise.
First-time shoppers are provided with the reusable bottles, while returning shoppers use their existing bottle. Once filled, shoppers are then able to add their printed price label to the bottle and take the filled bottle to be processed at the store checkout as normal. Each bottle comes with its own unique QR code, a feature which enables full traceability to allow for greater insight into the circular model.
It is thought that the three refill stations in tandem could save equivalent to 30,000 plastic water bottles per store in just one year, based on predicted sales of Persil, Radox, Alberto Balsam and Simple refills.
Sebastian Munden, Executive Vice President of Unilever UK & Ireland commented: “I am very excited by the potential to test and learn from this fantastic partnership with Asda. It's a great opportunity for us to find out, across seven of our leading brands, just how shoppers respond to using refillable and reusable packaging in-store. We are all committed to driving lasting change when it comes to plastic, but to do so we must create scalable solutions and make it as easy as possible for people to make sustainable choices.
“On our journey to halving our use of virgin plastic by 2025 and ensuring all our plastic packaging is fully reusable, recyclable or compostable, 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.”
Jo Chidley, Founder of Beauty Kitchen, added: “The need to act on the plastic pollution crisis is urgent and focusing consumer behaviour on sustainability and cradle to cradle practise is a vital part of the solution. This exciting partnership to power Refill Stations is a pivotal point in creating a sustainable future and instilling a reuse mindset”.
According to a Kantar report from June 2020, plastic waste remains the priority global environmental concern for Great British consumers, with 60 per cent indicating that they will use refill options if they are available.