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Campaigners hail ‘game-changing’ reuse scheme

Food brands and retailers will join forces to deliver circular economy solutions at scale under a new scheme aimed at increasing adoption of reusable packaging.

Supported by UK Research & Innovation’s smart sustainable plastic packaging fund, the collaboration initially brings together retailer M&S, household brand Ecover, start-up innovator Reposit and charity City to Sea to scale up a new reuse platform that is brand agnostic.

The platform is looking to break with previous reuse models by offering products in standardised reusable containers which shoppers can buy anywhere and return anywhere, with the ambition to roll out the scheme to up to 100 products and 200 stores across the UK.

City to Sea said only a joint initiative involving all stakeholders can successfully tackle the impact of single-use plastic waste produced by brands, supermarkets and retailers.

It follows a successful pilot by M&S of refillable packaging earlier this year in six stores across 10 homecare products. The trial has seen the rate of sales and return rates exceed targets and in some cases exceed that of the single-use equivalent product.

Customers pay an initial £2 deposit which is redeemable as a voucher for future purchases when they return the container. The customer takes the product to use at home and then returns it once empty in registered drop-off points. The empty packaging is then collected, washed and sanitised, refilled, and put back in supermarkets for new consumers to use. 

The scheme is now being opened up to other retailers and brands to help make it widely accessible across the UK.

“This is a game-changing moment in our collective battle against plastic pollution from packaging,” said Jane Martin, head of development at City to Sea. “This means that customers will be able to easily and accessibly pick up their favourite products in packaging that has already been refilled safe in the knowledge that it will be used again and again.”