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Story 14: Scaling One of Europe’s Largest Refill Trials
“Re” is a reuse model developed by Beauty Kitchen, a sustainability-orientated beauty brand. The Re model focuses on replacing single-use plastic packaging by offering universal reuse options that can be returned or refilled at stations in retail stores across the UK. Re was awarded Innovate UK funding as part of the Smart Sustainable Plastic Packaging Challenge.
The company “Re” conceptualised cost-effective packaging as a service with the aim of drawing both brands and consumers away from single-use plastic packaging and encouraging them to buy into the reuse model. For consumers, Re focuses on convenience and accessibility. For brands, it aims to demonstrate that refillable products can be successful, scalable, and profitable.
One of the key components of the “Re” scheme is the Smart Bottles. Made from steel, glass, or next-generation washable plastics, “Re” Bottles feature a scannable code containing lifecycle information such as when the bottle was last refilled and how many times it has been reused. This information allows consumers to earn Rewards through their account. Consumers can also purchase pre-filled “Re” bottles for an additional fee. This fee works like a deposit return scheme: when the empty bottle is returned, the consumer receives a coupon for their next Re Bottle purchase.
“Re” Smart Bottles can be returned, by consumers, at Return Stations, with plans for these to be widely available in retail stores, shopping centres, universities, train stations, and major office complexes. At a Return Station, the consumer is asked to scan the unique QR code on the base of the Re Bottle, place it in the door of the machine, and then collect either a digital or printed coupon to cover their next purchase.
Re also offers Refill Stations, which are located adjacent to Return Stations in stores. At Refill Stations, the Re Bottle can be refilled with the consumer’s product of choice. These stations have interactive touchscreens and, at both Return and Refill Stations, consumers receive points for taking the Re Bottles back. The Refill Stations have been developed and manufactured in the UK and can incorporate updated technology with the manufacturing process based on an exclusive agreement between “Re” and manufacturing technology provider. Brands working with Re include Beauty Kitchen, Elemis, Unilever, PZ Cussons and NAF! Salon. As for retailers, partners include ASDA, Co-op, M&S, Tesco, and Sainsbury’s.
The European Union (EU) project on Reducing Plastic Waste in Canada