The UK Refill Coalition – which comprises Aldi UK, Ocado Retail, and supply chain company CHEP – today launched a refillables pilot for food and household products at Aldi Solihull.
With a mission of tackling single-use plastic packaging waste, the coalition has developed a reusable bulk vessel, which has been designed to deliver refills at scale for key food staples such as cereals and pasta, and cleaning and personal care products.
The in-store refill system in Aldi Solihull allows retailers to sell unpackaged goods, with consumers encouraged to bring in their own containers. Subject to this trial being successful, coalition retailers intend to roll out refill stations in their stores and for use in their online operations.
The Refill Coalition was convened in 2020 by GoUnpackaged, a consultancy which prior to this month’s rebrand was known as Unpackaged and is leading the charge for more refill facilities in UK retail in the name of reducing single-use packaging. The coalition has partnered with global manufacturers Berry Global, DIGI, and Eden and Trade Fixtures to develop the new equipment.
The coalition’s solution, which at present includes a dry goods refill system, is supported by UKRI’s Smart Sustainable Plastic Packaging Challenge fund, delivered by Innovate UK. The refillable equipment will extend to a tareless 2 weighing system and liquids dispense next year – which means consumers won’t need to weigh their own container before using the system.
Luke Emery, plastics & packaging director at Aldi, remarked: “We are continuing our work to reduce single-use plastics and packaging, and making unpackaged product options more commonplace for our customers is a key part of this.”
Alasdair Hamblin, general manager for northern Europe at CHEP, commented: “I am thrilled to see our collective vision as the Refill Coalition brought to life with the launch of this trial.
“CHEP’s business is defined by our sustainable, circular economy model of share and reuse. This pilot phase is an invaluable opportunity to collaborate and test that model in a new environment. Together with our partners, we are committed to redefining industry standards, reducing single-use plastic packaging and forging a regenerative supply chain where we move more with less for a better tomorrow.”
Catherine Conway, director at GoUnpackaged, noted: “We’re so proud to have convened the coalition and brought a brand-new solution to market that has the potential for adoption across a global supply chain.
“The coalition has worked tirelessly since 2020, and overcome numerous obstacles, to reach this go-live point. An industry-wide approach will lead to a refill system that works for everyone in the supply chain and make refilling easier for shoppers.”
In early 2024, the refill trial will move into the online realm, with Ocado Retail.
Described as a bulk home delivery refill solution, vessels will be 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.
Rachel Cox-Reynolds, director of own-brand, technical & sustainability at Ocado Retail, said: “It’s been a pleasure to join forces with our industry peers in the coalition with the mutual objective of reducing single-use plastic packaging.
“We’re proud that Ocado will be leading the concept for online deliveries in the new year, making it easier than ever for customers to refill everyday staples from the convenience of their doorsteps.”
The coalition’s equipment is designed to become a global standard, accessible by any supplier or retailer.
It arrives on the retail scene at Aldi Solihull after supermarket chains such as Waitrose, Marks & Spencer, and Asda have trialled their own packaging-free refillable areas in selected UK stores. Tesco also adopted a Loop system in its east of England stores, but despite consumers buying more than 80,000 items through the service in two years, it was stopped in summer 2022 as Tesco said it wanted to find alternative ways to reduce its packaging.
[Main image credit: GoUnpackaged]