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Embedding Reuse + Refill into your packaging strategy

It’s undeniable that the prospect of reusable packaging is sending shivers down many producers’ spines. But never the less, some single-use producers are stepping up to the challenge despite the hurdles.

Raw material producers, converters, retailers, and stakeholders are all actively moving towards a circular economy, mapping out the journey, making commitments for reuse, and investing in the changes to make it happen.

If you’re embarking along this path, it’s important to do it right. We’re seeing many brands jumping into reuse or bolting it on without conducting initial business case work required for success. Many others are fearful of ‘first mover risk’.

Having a clear and defined role for reuse and refill within your brand’s packaging ambitions should form the lynchpin of your Packaging Strategy

How invested is your business in reuse and refill?

Having a clear and defined role for reuse and refill within your brand’s packaging ambitions should form the lynchpin of your Packaging Strategy. If reuse and refill does not help meet your aspirations, why are you investing in it? Reacting to policy as a driver alone, without a clear plan, is insufficient and you are likely to fail fast

Integrating reuse and fill within a product strategy

Often, the problem sits with a brand’s reluctance to change product format. This reluctance can limit the brand’s ability to integrate reuse and refill within their Packaging Strategy. As a rule of thumb, anything wet requires a polymer. If you want to be ‘plastic free’ (which Root doesn’t necessarily always support), you potentially won’t be able to implement reuse and refill.

Lush’s shampoo bars are a dry product that don’t require an airtight seal, allowing the brand to take advantage of refillable packaging solutions. Other categories well suited to reuse and refill include stick deodorants, while some wet product can be refilled, like Ritual’s use of double wall skincare jars and Prada’s Paradoxe refillable fragrance.

You need to consider the product format, how regularly customers make a purchase, and the impact of the refill itself, all of which are often overlooked.

You need to collaborate with other industry stakeholders, including the competition, to share the risk, split investment and learn together

Investing in reuse and refill

Public data about reuse and refill is lacking, a factor that deters many brands who would otherwise be keen to explore its use. We were pleased to see Tesco share an honest report about their journey with Loop, explaining the reasons why it’s not right for them at the moment.

It’s not realistic to think you can simply buy refillable packaging and offer it to your customers. You need to collaborate with other industry stakeholders, including the competition, to share the risk, split investment and learn together. It’s not going to be a quick fix: you’ll need significant resources and finance to get started.

Inspiring holistic thinking

The launch event for the Hubbub Reuse System Unpacked report, of which Root was a contributor, outlines two ‘elephants in the room’ that need to be addressed within your Packaging Strategy.

1. The cost of exploration and implementation
2. The tension between the need to standardise versus the brand’s need to differentiate

Building on this, we took a closer look at ‘On the Go’ and takeaway across Europe in a recent article in Packaging Europe’s ‘Zero-Waste Takeaway’ (pages 12, 13 and 15).

On a more global footing, click here and watch the full webinar with Tracy from Root, Daniella Russ from Think Beyond Plastic and Adam Read, the president of the CIWM. Tracy explains more about the need to design waste strategies out of systems rather than disproportionately focusing on recycling.

Get in touch

Root is one of Europe’s leading sustainable consultancies, advising brands on how to use less and transition to becoming a regenerative, inclusive and kinder organisation to people and our planet. A packaging strategy by Root will help you define the business case for reuse and refill.

To talk about your requirement please get in touch by email at impact@root-innovation.com or complete the enquiry form