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Retail sector looks to boost shoppers’ in-store reuse

Unilever and UK retail giant Asda are working on research into how shopping habits may be preventing customers from using reusable packaging and in-store refilling stations.

The companies, working with ngo packaging specialist WRAP, are to closely follow people as they plan their shopping at home, carry it out in their stores, and how they sort and store products once back at home.

The research is intended to gain a deeper understanding into the opportunities for refill and reuse, as well as the barriers holding shoppers back. The parties hope supermarkets and businesses will then use the information to increase the use of refillable packaging.

Changes could include making reusable packaging options more visible when shopping online or providing people with prompts and reminders through digital channels.

New research undertaken by WRAP indicates that most two in three people are concerned about plastic pollution, saying they are open to using refill options to shop sustainably and help tackle plastic pollution – but the activity needs to be made easier.

Yvette Edwards, Unilever’s director of communications and corporate affairs, acknowledges that more sustainable shopping has to be made as easy as possible. ‘We believe reusable packaging could help reduce plastic waste at scale but it is a totally new way of shopping requiring new behaviours at-home and in-store,’ she says.

Susan Thomas, Asda’s senior director, sustainable commercial activities, adds that customers ‘want to do their bit’ to reduce their carbon footprint. ‘Removing price as a barrier to purchase is essential to persuade shoppers to embrace refill and our Greener at Asda Price promise ensures that all loose products are sold at the same price or less per kg than packaged equivalents.’

Marcus Gover, WRAP ceo, says no-one has previously looked at reuse and refill behaviours on this scale before. ‘This way of shopping needs to become a habit if we are going to make serious headway in eliminating unnecessary plastic packaging and meet the targets of The UK Plastics Pact.’

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