Asda opens 'sustainability store' with refill stations and plastic-free groceries
Asda has installed refill stations, reverse vending machines and a vintage clothing aisle to one of its busiest stores, to gauge consumer attitudes and logistical considerations to more sustainable offerings.
The supermarket will host the features at its store in Middleton, Leeds, for a minimum of three months.
During the trial, customers will be able to choose from more than 30 packaging-free product lines from refill stations. They include Kellogg’s cereals, PG Tips tea bags, Quaker Oats porridge and Vimto cordial. Asda has also made some of its own-brand pasta and rice lines available in a packaging-free format.
Cleaning and health and beauty products from Unilever will be available for a refill as well as groceries. Items stocked include Persil laundry detergent, Simple hand wash and Radox shower gel.
Elsewhere, the store features new recycling bins for items that aren’t collected at kerbside by the local authority, including crisp packets, toothpaste tubes and plastic toys, and a reverse vending machine for cans, plastic drinks bottles and glass drinks bottles. Reverse vending machine trials have proven successful for other retailers including Iceland, and the UK could soon play host to more of these machines once the Resources and Waste Strategy’s proposed deposit return system is introduced.
Away from packaging, the store will spotlight more sustainable clothing. Local vintage seller Pre-Loved will put a range of items on display and Asda’s own clothing section will be reordered to promote items that contain sustainably sourced materials and recycled polyester.
Asda said in a statement that it will use the learnings from the trial to decide which initiatives should be rolled out and how. It has already confirmed that new recycling collection facilities will be introduced to all UK stores from early 2021 and that it will expand its range of refillable products to more than 40 lines over the next three years.
The supermarket’s chief executive Roger Burnley called the opening of the store “an important milestone” in Asda’s “sustainability journey”.
“We have always known that we couldn’t go on this journey alone, so it is fantastic to work in tandem with more than twenty of our partners and suppliers, who have answered the call to test innovative sustainable solutions with us,” Burnley said.
“This is an issue that matters greatly to our customers – our own insight tells us that more than 80% believe that supermarkets have a responsibility to reduce the amount of single-use plastics in stores.”
Asda first announced its intention to pilot refillable products in January. At that point in time, Waitrose had just extended its ‘Unpacked’ offering of 200+ packaging-free products to additional stores.
Plastics strategy update
Mindful of its broader plastics impact, Asda has also committed to removing three billion pieces of single-use plastic from own-brand products by 2025.
The supermarket set a weight-based target of a 15% reduction in plastic packaging on own-brand lines in 2018, deadlining it at 2021. It has since surpassed that target, removing 9,300 tonnes, and sees the new target as a logical next step.
In a first step towards the new target, Asda is trialling 29 new lines of packaging-free fruit and vegetables including cauliflowers, mushrooms and cabbages, and has removed the outer plastic wrapping on its most popular multipacks of soups and beans. Asda, like Waitrose, conducted consumer research which found that most shoppers think this kind of packaging is unnecessary.