Reusable and refillable applications, a optimistic step in minimizing the environmental footprint for manufacturers

Nerida Kelton

As consumers ask retailers and brands to use less unnecessary packaging on products, a shift has occurred as more reusable and refillable programs are tested around the world.

By Nerida Kelton, Executive Director of the Australian Institute of Packaging.

Many retailers and brands are testing the reuse model to see if consumers are really ready to change their buying habits to become more sustainable.

While reusable and refillable programs get positive feedback in other categories such as household, household, and cosmetics, the food models can pose more of a barrier, especially when it comes to health, safety, and hygiene perceptions. The way retailers and affiliate brands communicate messaging is critical to the success of the food category reuse model.

Loop: A new waste-free and reusable way to shop

One of the most innovative global programs for reusable and refillable packaging is Loop. A unique service from the global recycling organization TerraCycle. The model aims to create a waste-free environment where retailers, packaging suppliers, brands and consumers work together to effectively minimize unnecessary single-use packaging.

The Loop program enables products to be delivered to a consumer's home in waste-free packaging developed in collaboration with the brands. Grocery brands working with the program include Nestlé, Burlap and Barrels, Danone, Nature & # 39; s Path Organic, Häagen-Dazs, International Harvest, and Reinberger Nutbutter and Puretto.

How does Loop work in a retail environment?

The customer buys the product and first pays a 100% deposit in order to borrow the reusable packaging. After consumption, Loop collects the empty packaging from the household and ensures that the packaging undergoes a rigorous hygienic cleaning process specially developed for its category and product type. Loop sends the cleaned packaging back to the manufacturer, who makes the product available for repurchase and continues the "loop". The deposit will be refunded if the customer no longer needs the product.

The loop packaging is durable, reusable and refillable and an alternative to disposable packaging. The packaging design considered design functionality, end of life, use of recycled content, reusable materials and a recycling method for all solutions. To achieve the environmental benefits, the loop program packaging must also achieve the required number of returns / uses. This is a critical design aspect to offset the additional environmental factors (CO2 / energy / water) created by the additional packaging weight, transportation and cleaning. A life cycle assessment is important to identify the best packaging formats and to ensure that the packaging can be recycled at the end of its life.

The Loop program is now available in France (Carrefour), the United States (Kroger and Walgreens), and the United Kingdom (Tesco) and Canada (Loblaws). Programs coming soon in Japan (AEON), Australia (Woolworths) and Germany.

Refillable Häagen Dazs right at your door

Nestlé worked with Loop to develop a reuse model that allows consumers to enjoy Häagen-Dazs in reusable packaging. Deliveries are made in bespoke, durable packaging to the consumer's doorstep, which is then collected, cleaned, refilled and reused. Häagen-Dazs has developed a reusable double-walled steel container that keeps the ice cream in optimal condition during transport and consumption. The canister design ensures that the ice melts faster at the top when opened than at the bottom of the container. The canister is then returned to a facility for cleaning and reuse.

In-store gas stations and sustainable stores

Recently, the retail environment, where a wide range of brands have refill stations in stock, has changed gratifyingly. In-store refill stations are convenient for customers and another means of minimizing unnecessary packaging in the retail aisles.

Asda is testing new sustainability store

In late 2020, Asda opened a test sustainability store in Middleton, Leeds, UK. During the test, customers can choose from more than 30 packaging-free product lines at refill stations. These include Kelloggs cereal, PG Tips tea bags, Quaker Oats porridge and Vimto Cordial. Asda has also made some of its own pasta and rice lines available in a packaging-free format.

Nestlé refill stations help customers reduce the consumption of single-use packaging

In May 2020, Nestlé announced a pilot program in three branches in Switzerland for petrol stations for instant coffee. Customers can bring their own reusable Nestlé glasses and easily refill their coffee. The user-friendly system, which was developed in collaboration with MIWA, also gives customers digital access to product information such as shelf life and ingredients.

Another form of reusable packaging is to provide attractive and durable packaging that replaces one-way packaging. This packaging design concept is especially important when current packaging formats are not recyclable. A prime example of this are trigger spray packs, where the current multi-component trigger sprays make recycling difficult. The “refill option” for the reusable pack is achieved by providing a lightweight, recyclable refill pack.

Murray River Organics brought a range of cereals in the reusable PET canister in 2020. MRO is exploring ways to develop recyclable refill packaging to ensure that the reusable canister can also be a refillable canister. A refill pouch can be one way that food can counteract negative perceptions of health, safety, and hygiene issues.

It is encouraging to see so many retailers and brands testing the reuse model and working with their customers to find out how the world can collectively eliminate unnecessary pollution through single-use packaging.

I look forward to consumers adopting these programs so that we can move closer to a world without waste.

In 2019, the Ellen MacArthur Foundation's New Plastics Economy initiative presented their research on reuse models. The study highlights six ways in which reuse can bring significant benefits to both users and businesses:

  1. reduce costs
  2. Adaptation to individual needs
  3. Optimize operations
  4. Build brand loyalty
  5. Enhance the user experience
  6. Gather information.

The Ellen Macarthur Foundation has developed four reuse models that can contribute to a superior user experience.

  1. Refill at home

With this model, users refill their reusable containers at home (for example, with refills that are delivered via a subscription service. This model is particularly well suited for e-commerce as the online interface allows an integrated solution to communicate and at the same time there is no competition for shelf space for products sold in standard packaging.

  1. Refill on the go

With this model, users refill their reusable containers from home (e.g. in a dispensing system in a store). This model requires a physical store or drop-off point, which makes it more suitable for traditional retail stores and urban environments. In low-income markets, the model can meet customer needs for small quantities at affordable prices without relying on single-use bags.

  1. Return from home

This model is used when the packaging is collected from your home by a collection service (e.g. a logistics company). This model is suitable for e-commerce as the collection of empty packaging can be combined with the delivery of new products. It is particularly suitable for urban areas with reduced driving distances between deliveries.

  1. Return on the way

In this model, users return the packaging to a store or drop-off point (e.g., a return machine). This model is widely used because it can replace most single-use packaging without changing the basic buying situation.

About Nerida Kelton MAIP

Nerida has been in the packaging industry for over 23 years and is Executive Director of the Australian Institute of Packaging (AIP), the leading professional association for packaging education and training in Australasia. Nerida is passionate about sustainable circular packaging and food packaging design and is the leader of the Save Food Packaging Consortium project at the Fight Food Waste Cooperative research center and packaging representative in the Ministry of Agriculture, Water and Environment for National Food Waste Strategy Steering Committee. She invests her time educating the industry about the important role packaging plays in minimizing food waste and how the design of Save Food Packaging can make a difference. She is also committed to educating and training packaging professionals on the importance of sustainable and circular packaging design and recognizing best practices in this area. Nerida believes everyone has a role to play in minimizing their environmental impact on our planet.

About the Australian Institute of Packaging (AIP)

The Australian Institute of Packaging (AIP) is the leading professional organization for packaging education and training in Australasia. Assisting in shaping the careers of generations of packaging professionals – from packaging technologists to international executives in the packaging industry to a wide variety of employees in related disciplines – sales and marketing, purchasing, production and the environment.

The AIP was founded in 1963 in response to the need for packaging technologists to interact and provide professional identities to individuals in the packaging industry. The AIP has been in the industry for over 55 years and is the only professional organization that enables professional and personal development at all levels of the packaging industry. The educational offer includes the diploma in packaging technology, the certificate in packaging, the master's in food and packaging innovation and the certified packaging professional.

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