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Asda and Co-op extend self-refill programmes across the UK

Asda is using smartphone technology to improve accessibility. Image courtesy of Asda

Leading food retailers Asda and Co-op are both extending their self-refill programmes across the UK, as food retailers look to be more sustainable.

Working with Unilever, which owns more than 400 brands in the UK, both Asda and Co-op will launch self-refill stations that allow shoppers to bring their own containers to the store to fill with a range of leading products, including Persil Non-bio, Alberto Balsam shampoo and Radox shower gel.

The trial will also see shoppers offered the chance to buy stainless steel refillable bottles, which can be returned to the store, cleaned and reused almost indefinitely.

The programme will initially take place across Co-op convenience stores and Asda supermarkets in Glasgow, York, Rugby, Milton Keynes and Leeds.

The move comes as Asda separately has extended its own refillable programme on its own brands to cover 70 of its stores across the UK, following a successful trial in Leeds.

Unilever’s UK general manager and executive vice-president’s Sebastian Munden comments: “To tackle plastic pollution with the speed and urgency needed, we are committed to creating scalable solutions which make it as easy as possible for people to make sustainable choices.”

He continues: “We believe refills could be a gamechanger in our ambitions to halve our use of virgin plastic by 2025, however unlocking the full potential of the reuse economy would require a significant shift in how people shop. Using our well-known and trusted brands and working closely with retailers, we are testing different refill models on a large scale in order to continue to build our understanding of how to bring about a significant change most effectively.”

Self-refillable retail was pioneered in the UK by Waitrose – going live in Botley, Oxford in 2019 – and which earlier this month expanded the range of its products available in this way in response to growing customer demand.

The supermarket says packaging-free sales have grown by 9% over the last six months, while work to add Waitrose’s range of refillable items to its regular supermarket aisles has also seen sales rise by 20%.

Sales of refillable frozen fruit and vegetables have grown by more than 50% over the last six months, while sales of detergent and washing-up liquid were more than 24% ahead, and sales of pulses, past and grains have risen by almost 8%.

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