Resource Use

Unilever announces launch of new refill partnership with Asda

Yesterday (20 October), Unilever announced the launch of its new refill partnership with Asda, representing the company’s largest refill and reuse trial in Europe.

As part of the reopening of Asda’s Middleton store in Leeds as a new ‘sustainability store’, Unilever launched its ‘Refill Zone’, providing customers with refill options across seven of its brands, including Persil, Radox and PG Tips.

Unilever's refill machines in Asda's Middleton store
Unilever's refill machines in Asda's Middleton store
The trial forms part of Unilever’s sustainability commitments – in 2019, the company pledged to halve its use of virgin plastic and provide customers with fully reusable, recyclable or compostable plastic packaging by 2025, and in the same year launched its ‘Get Plastic Wise’ campaign.

According to Unilever, the trial will provide a real-world ‘test and learn’ to understand what works best for consumers in a retail environment. Three different refill models are available as part of the trial, including refill machines for beauty and personal care brands such as Simple, Radox, Persil and Alberto Balsam, in-home refill services for Cif products, and self-serve container stations for PG Tips and Pukka tea bags and loose-leaf teas.

Developed by retailer Beauty Kitchen, the refill machines will use QR technology to enable touch-free vending in the coming weeks. Each refillable bottle has a unique QR code, allowing the bottle to be traced across the full buy, use and refill process, which is expected to provide Unilever with a greater insight into the working of its circular trial.

Sebastian Munden, Executive Vice President of Unilever UK and Ireland, said: “I am very excited by the potential to test and learn from this fantastic partnership with Asda. It's a great opportunity for us to find out, across seven of our leading brands, just how shoppers respond to using refillable and reusable packaging in-store.

“We are all committed to driving lasting change when it comes to plastic, but to do so we must create scalable solutions and make it as easy as possible for people to make sustainable choices.

“On our journey to halving our use of virgin plastic by 2025 we will have to be bold and totally rethink products and packaging, and we will only do that by testing a range of solutions with shoppers in real-life conditions."

Jo Chidley, Founder of Beauty Kitchen, added: “The need to act on the plastic pollution crisis is urgent and focusing consumer behaviour on sustainability and cradle to cradle practise is a vital part of the solution. This exciting partnership to power Refill Stations is a pivotal point in creating a sustainable future and instilling a reuse mindset”.