World-leading research will pave the way for mainstream re-use and refill shopping in UK supermarkets

Global NGO WRAP is working with UK Plastics Pact members, Asda and Unilever, in a world-first research project to understand how to change the ingrained shopping habits which might be preventing customers from using refill stations and reusable packaging as part of their regular weekly shop.

The in-depth research, which is being co-funded by Innovate UK, the UK’s innovation agency will involve closely following shoppers as they plan at home, engage in-store, and how they decant and store products once back at home. 

The aim is to gain a deeper understanding into the opportunities for refill and reuse, as well as the barriers which are holding citizens back. This research will be invaluable to supermarkets and businesses so they can adapt and grow their offering, driving the change needed to bring their customer along on the journey. Interventions could include making reusable packaging options more visible when shopping online or providing people with prompts and reminders through digital channels. It is a scientific approach which WRAP has used many times before to develop its own work in reducing household food waste and driving up recycling.

We know from other research undertaken by WRAP and released today as part of our Plastics Tracker Report that most citizens (two in three) remain concerned about plastic pollution, with many (67%) saying they are open to using refill options as part of their personal motivation to shop sustainably and tackle plastic pollution, but that it needs to be made easier. Many expressed reservations about the lack of widespread availability, trying something new, the time and effort in planning to shop this way, the ‘messiness factor’ and the perceived cost.

It reveals the scale of the challenge in reversing deeply ingrained shopping habits. But it is a shift which is an important part of reducing plastic packaging in shops and tackling plastic pollution as well as enabling citizens to shop sustainably. This new on-the-ground project will help pave the way to making that shift.

Marcus Gover, CEO WRAP, “We’ve seen Pact members introducing some successful small-scale trials of refills, but we know we need more evidence to understand how these can be rolled out on a wider-scale and become part of our daily shopping habits. No-one has looked at re-use and refill behaviours on this scale before, and I’m delighted that we are able to do this in partnership with two of our founding UK Plastics Pact members, Asda and Unilever. This way of shopping needs to become a habit if we are going to make serious headway in eliminating unnecessary plastic packaging and meet the targets of The UK Plastics Pact.

“This study holds the answers to developing re-use and refill systems that meet the needs of shoppers who want to protect their environment, but also in a cost-effective and convenient way.” 

Susan Thomas, Asda Senior Director, Sustainable Commercial Activities, “We know that customers want to do their bit to reduce their carbon footprint and we are always working with them and our partners such as Unilever on new ways to make refill as hassle free and also as cost effective as possible. Removing price as a barrier to purchase is essential to persuade shoppers to embrace refill and our Greener at Asda Price promise ensures that all loose products are sold at the same price or less per kg than packaged equivalents. We are really pleased with the enthusiasm customers have shown in our four refill stores and this WRAP research will help us shape our next steps as we persuade more customers to embrace this form of shopping when they have been used to the convenience and ease of buying sealed products.”

Yvette Edwards, Unilever UK & Ireland Communications and Corporate Affairs Director, “We need to make it as easy as possible for people to make sustainable choices every day. We believe reusable packaging could help reduce plastic waste at scale, but it is a totally new way of shopping requiring new behaviours at-home and in-store. To encourage and enable more people to trial our reusable products and to continue to buy them in the longer term, we are pleased to be working with our partners WRAP and Asda so we can test and learn together and gather insight on what will work most effectively”.

Related posts

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.