WRAP research to identify barriers to consumer sustainability

WRAP has partnered with UK Plastics Pact members Asda and Unilever in a research project to understand the retail opportunities for refill and reuse, as well as the barriers holding consumers back.

Bottles in supermarketThe research, which is being co-funded by Innovate UK, will follow shoppers as they plan at home, engage in-store, and how they decant and store products once back at home. The findings, WRAP asserts, will be a valuable tool for supermarkets and businesses, allowing them to ‘adapt and grow their offering, driving the change needed to bring their customer along on the journey’.

Potential interventions could include making reusable packaging options more visible when shopping online, or providing consumers with prompts and reminders through digital channels. It is a scientific approach, WRAP says, which has been used many times before to develop the NGO’s own work in reducing household food waste and driving up recycling.

The announcement follows the release of WRAP’s Plastics Tracker Report, which finds that most citizens (two in three) remain concerned about plastic pollution, with the majority (67 per cent) saying they are open to using refill options as part of their personal motivation to shop sustainably and tackle plastic pollution, but that it needs to be made easier. The report also observes that many have reservations about the lack of widespread availability, trying something new, the time and effort required to shop this way, the ‘messiness factor’, and the perceived cost.

Marcus Gover, CEO WRAP, said: “We’ve seen Pact members introducing some successful small-scale trials of refills, but we know we need more evidence to understand how these can be rolled out on a wider scale and become part of our daily shopping habits.

“No one has looked at re-use and refill behaviours on this scale before, and I’m delighted that we are able to do this in partnership with two of our founding UK Plastics Pact members, Asda and Unilever. 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.

“This study holds the answers to developing re-use and refill systems that meet the needs of shoppers who want to protect their environment, but also in a cost-effective and convenient way.”

Susan Thomas, Asda Senior Director, Sustainable Commercial Activities, commented: “We know that customers want to do their bit to reduce their carbon footprint and we are always working with them and our partners such as Unilever on new ways to make refill as hassle-free and also as cost-effective as possible.

“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.

“We are really pleased with the enthusiasm customers have shown in our four refill stores and this WRAP research will help us shape our next steps as we persuade more customers to embrace this form of shopping when they have been used to the convenience and ease of buying sealed products.”

Yvette Edwards, Unilever UK & Ireland Communications and Corporate Affairs Director, added: “We need to make it as easy as possible for people to make sustainable choices every day. 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.

“To encourage and enable more people to trial our reusable products and to continue to buy them in the longer term, we are pleased to be working with our partners WRAP and Asda so we can test and learn together and gather insight on what will work most effectively”.