Elemis to launch refillable packaging formats

Skincare and beauty brand Elemis has joined a new collaborative initiative focused on reusable packaging, spearheaded by Scottish SME Beauty Kitchen and backed by firms including Asda and Unilever.

Elemis to launch refillable packaging formats

Image: Beauty Kitchen

Under the initiative, customers return empty packaging with the appropriate logo to a participating retailer, either in-store or by post. The packaging is then cleaned and sent back to the retailer, either pre-refilled or ready for in-store refill. The packaging is made using steel, glass and/or washable plastics, and has a “smart tracking “system so it can be scanned across the value chain.

The programme, called ‘Re’ (short for Return-Refill-Repeat), was first developed by B Corp certified Beauty Kitchen and implemented across its own range of products. It was then opened up to other brands, quickly garnering the interest of several big names.

Notably, Asda and Unilever began trialling a ‘return on the go’ scheme in selected stores this June. Shoppers at five stores will be able to chose pre-refilled bottles of products including Persil, Simple, Radox and Alberto Balsam. Asda is also planning to bring the offering to additional stores in the coming months.

Elemis already sells bulk versions of some of its products, whereby consumers can buy the larger version and decant into smaller containers, saving on packaging. It also offers refillable candles. However, like many brands in its sector, it is being asked by customers to go further and faster in this field.

The brand, which is owned by L’Occitane, will pilot refillable formats for two products this year.

Elemis’ chief product and sustainability officer Oriele Frank said: “Sustainability in the beauty and wellness sector is something that a lot of brands are looking to improve upon, and it is incredibly humbling to see. The ambition for ELEMIS over the next couple of years is to become the most sustainable luxury skin wellness brand.”

Beauty Kitchen founder Jo Chidley added: “We do not want a monopoly on circular economy products – we want the opposite. As a collaborative programme, we are sharing our knowledge to co-operate with other brands, retailers, and corporations to accelerate an inclusive, scalable, and repeatable circular packaging solution.”

The Re programme’s overall vision is to mitigate the landfilling of 100 million bottles within three years.

The state of play

Earlier this month, the Ellen MacArthur Foundation released its annual report tracking the progress of the signatories of its New Plastics Economy Global Commitment. The Commitment was launched in 2018 and now has 63 corporate signatories including Danone, Unilever, Mars, PepsiCo, The Coca-Cola Company and L’Oreal.

It aims to create a “new normal” for plastic packaging by eliminating single-use packaging materials, increasing the amount of reused or recycled plastics in new products and innovate to ensure 100% of plastic packaging can be reused, recycled, or composted by 2025.

The report found that, while most brands were making strong progress in improving the recyclability of packaging and in procuring recycled content to manufacture packaging, much more remains to be done on refilling and reuse.

Only 5% of the brands participating are currently using refill or return models in some capacity.

Dame Ellen MacArthur has pointed to an “alarming” lack of investment to take refill to scale across consumer goods sectors.

Sarah George

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