2. Does refillable packaging fit in with today’s lifestyles?
Refillable packaging began expanding in Europe in 2019, with both global consumer packaged goods (CPG) companies like Unilever jumping in, supermarkets creating refill sections, and small refill-only stores opening to meet the expected demand.
But, in March I saw a UK headline reporting that “Retail stores are disappearing as shoppers turn their backs on the zero-waste lifestyle.”
This headline is a bit of a misnomer. Consumers aren’t turning their backs on zero-waste lifestyles. They’re turning their backs on inconvenient, overly complex lifestyles. As I wrote in Packaging Europe in March 2022, “As we continue to find ways to reduce the negative impact of packaging on the environment, we should always keep in mind that while novelty may be newsworthy, convenience is king.”
I also stated that, “The reasons for the retail failure of refillables are both simple and basic. They’re inconvenient. They’re generic. They’re expensive. Just as significant is the fact that they don’t work in today’s world of ecommerce and home delivery. If people don’t go into stores, they can’t refill their containers.”
Does this mean that refillables are dead? Not at all. But they need to be part of a complete system that delivers convenience as well as waste reduction benefits:
1. Sell liquids in sturdy, reusable containers with dispensing ability.
2. Market refills, in concentrated form, in flexible packaging.
3. Price the refills well below the cost of the original product-and-dispenser purchase.
4. Produce the flexible packaging from monolayer, easy to recycle polymers.