Trials are planned in supermarkets and do-it-yourself stores this year to test the practicality and consumer acceptance of reusable packaging. WRAP (the Waste & Resources Action Programme) is working with Asda, Crown Paints, B&Q, STFI-Packforsk Edge, McBrides, CEVA Logistics and Parcelforce to explore how reusable and refillable systems may help the retail supply chain reduce packaging and product damage, save on costs and increase consumer loyalty.
In one trial at a number of Asda supermarkets customers will be able to buy concentrated fabric conditioner in reusable pouches that can be refilled up to 10 times from automated machines. The product will be transported in bulk and held ‘back of store’ then piped to the aisle. Customers can bring the pouch back for refilling at no extra cost to purchasing a standard bottle, but at a reduced pack weight which benefits the environment. The potential reduction in carbon impacts and waste offered by the new system will also be assessed.
In the home improvement sector Crown Paints is trialling a reuse scheme at its Decorator Centres to encourage tradesmen to return empty polypropylene paint containers in-store for onward cleaning and refill. Around 300 million litres of decorative paint are sold in the UK every year, so WRAP says the potential for cost and material savings is vast.
Away from liquids, B&Q is testing reusable packaging formats suitable for the home delivery of ‘longs’ – such as skirting board or interior trims for kitchen and bedroom products. An early reusable packaging prototype for ‘longs’ products completed more than 20 trips during testing, preventing the need for single-trip corrugated packaging for these journeys. This builds on B&Q’s award-winning project to adopt reusable transit Carrierpacs for kitchen worktops, some of which have now reached 80 uses, much higher than expected and delivering even greater cost savings and transit packaging reductions. Carrierpacs (www.carrierpac.com) are made from 45 per cent recycled polypropylene supplied by Storsack Dorton and Kaysersberg Plastics and are recycled at the end of their life. As well as B&Q they have been trialled by other DIY, building products and furniture suppliers including Assa Abloy, Moben Kitchens, Magnet, Paula Rosa Kitchens, International Decorative Surfaces and IKEA.
WRAP says that the aim in the trials is to identify the commercial viability of reusable packaging in a range of retail and supply chain settings and to measure the impact on the amount of packaging required and product waste produced. Results will be published throughout 2009 and 2010. This work could, when combined with growing consumer trends, spark a “reusables revolution” in consumer packaging, says WRAP.
There will also be research into the use of in-store self-dispensing systems for alcohol and soft drinks.