M&S trials refillable cleaning and laundry products

Image: M&S

The trial launched late last week at M&S’s stores in Bluewater and Stevenage. It will be extended to an additional four stores across the UK in the coming months.

Under the trial, customers will be able to purchase a refillable bottle of product, already pre-filled.  Bottles of 500ml, 750ml and 1l sizes will be available. Shoppers will be charged an initial £2 deposit, which will be refunded in the form of a voucher when they bring their empty bottles back to the store after using the product.

Empty bottles collected in store will be sent for cleaning and refilling before being sent back to stores for sale again.

The ‘pre-filled’ model being used by M&S has been developed and delivered by ‘Re’ – a programme first developed by Scottish SME Beauty Kitchen and implemented across its own range of products. The programme has since been opened to other brands, garnering the support of businesses including Elemis, Unilever and Asda. Asda was the first UK supermarket to introduce ‘Re’ prefills last June.

Beauty Kitchen states that all refillable bottles are “made with durable materials to reduce damage and waste”. The bottles themselves are metallic and contain a recyclable plastic spray trigger or pump.

M&S’s progress so far

The launch of ‘Re’ at M&S comes after the supermarket expanded its ‘Fill Your Own’ offering for ambient and frozen food last year. The offering was first launched in 2019 and received good customer feedback, but expansion plans were complicated by the pandemic.

With expansion back on track, ‘Fill Your Own’ is now available in 14 stores and covers 60 product lines. Crucially, products sold packaging-free are cheaper per gram than their pre-packed counterparts. M&S estimates that the offering has mitigated the use of 350,000 pieces of single-use plastic packaging so far.

Last year, in updating its flagship ‘Plan A’ sustainability strategy, M&S pledged to remove a billion pieces of plastic packaging from its food range by 2027.

“At M&S, we want to help our customers live more sustainably by transforming how we sell our products; we know they care deeply about reducing plastic so we’re taking a test and learn approach to find innovative solutions,” said the supermarket’s head of sustainability for food Lucinda Langton.

“Our homecare trial builds on our refillable and packaging-free Fill Your Own concept, and both are important parts of our strategy to reduce plastic and packaging. Fill Your Own has already been hugely popular – showing there is high demand for refillable great value options – and if customers love M&S Refillable just as much, we’ll be rolling it out to more stores.”

M&S was criticised for its approach to reducing plastic packaging earlier this year in a ranking of supermarket sustainability progress by Which?. But the retailer said the ranking “did not fairly reflect its sustainability ambitions or achievements to date”.

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