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Increasing consumer engagement of reuse + refill initiatives

Regulations mandating reuse are on the rise across every continent – brands that fail to prepare are likely to face significant commercial and reputational damage. Implementation of reuse initiatives has so far been slow off the mark, but that’s not always down to brands’ lack of ambition.

Consumers need to buy-in to reuse too – and that’s often where the main resistance lies. We take a look at some of the things brands can do to ensure consumer engagement

This is the second article in the reuse + refill series, taken from the Getting to the Root of Reuse and Refill ’23 report.

This new report reveals four other critical themes that brands must have on their radar. Click the link below to download the full report.

To boost the adoption of reusable and refillable packaging, several measures are required. Smart policymakers have mandated equal promotion of reuse alongside single-use. Others are urging businesses to educate consumers about the environmental benefits of reuse through in-store or online communication, a commendable approach.

However, businesses aiming to merely meet regulatory requirements may overlook the crucial need of conducting customer research. Understanding your customers’ needs is essential for designing profitable solutions. Without this clarity, how can your businesses create effective and appealing reuse and refill packaging?

Accessibility

Ensure the personas you design for are inclusive, catering for a diverse customer base across mental, physical, lifestyle, and financial parameters. Design reusable solutions that address accessibility challenges posed by single-use packaging, such as hard to open weld-sealed trays and overly torqued jars with tightly sealed lids.

Solutions and systems should seamlessly integrate into lifestyles and significantly enhance them for a reuse system to become profitable

Convenience

Reuse must not only match or increase the convenience of single-use, but also offer notable benefits to succeed. In a trial involving 12 Singapore retailers, one third of customers requested reusable e-commerce packaging, and 75% voluntarily returned it. Solutions and systems should seamlessly integrate into lifestyles and significantly enhance them for a reuse system to become profitable.

Cost

Achieving price parity is not enough to engage or incentivise citizens; ideally, reuse should be more affordable. Policymakers are using Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) to financially disincentive hard-to-recycle single-use packaging, but there is often a disconnect between the team responsible for compliance costs and those choosing packaging budgets. Improving this link and a sound costing rationale is crucial to making a compelling business case for more affordable reuse.

Community

Reuse initiatives can bring together new corporate stakeholders and foster a sense of community amongst citizens. Examples range from small-scale enterprises in Southeast England to Abel&Cole collaborating with Dizzie and businesses in the BCorp Community offering reuse solutions.

Rewards

Loyalty programs, like those offered by Costa and Davines Partnered Hair Salons, are great examples of brands’ commitment to making reuse successful. Trials, such as those by Tesco and Loop, highlighted that easy-to-redeem deposits are vital incentives for users.

Upskilling

Keeping up with the changing regulations is tough, even for sustainability professionals. Understanding which reuse system is best for a product, brand or market is equally demanding. Organisations are increasingly seeking technical support from specialists to make the right decisions. Upskilling and knowledge sharing across the supply chain can enhance transparency and facilitate scalability.

Alcoholic Beverage Reuse: The Oregon Case Study

In Oregon, the responsibility of waste management was delegated to alcoholic beverage bottlers who voluntarily established a Producer Responsibility Organisation known as The Oregon Beverage Recycling Cooperative (OBRC). They implemented a system for shared reusable bottles and efficient collection, which operated successfully for many years.

The Challenges

Achieving price parity is not enough to engage or incentivise citizens; ideally, reuse should be more affordable. Policymakers are using Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) to financially disincentive hard-to-recycle single-use packaging, but there is often a disconnect between the team responsible for compliance costs and those choosing packaging budgets. Improving this link and a sound costing rationale is crucial to making a compelling business case for more affordable reuse.

Collaboration

OBRC’s case showcases collaboration between competitors for mutual benefit. Requiring retailers to take back bottles as a condition for liquor licenses helped to establish an easy-to-access return network.

Nevertheless, to safeguard reuse systems from exploitation, regulators must possess the authority to adjust parameters, close loopholes, and ensure a level playing field.