Both Asda and the Co-op are partnering with Unilever on a new refillable packaging trial, featuring some of the FMCG giant’s biggest brands.

In a global first for Unilever the trial in select Asda and Co-op stores will offer customers the chance to ‘return on the go’, where shoppers can pick up a pre-filled stainless-steel bottle from the shelf and return it in store once used.

Customers will also be able to purchase and refill reusable stainless-steel bottles using standalone refill stations from an expanded number of stores.

The announcement is an expansion of a trial the FMCG giant launched at Asda’s sustainability store in Leeds last year, with four additional sites being added in Glasgow, York, Rugby and Milton Keynes.

The Asda York store will be the largest refill store – with the grocer saying it had plans to install 18 standalone refill bays featuring more than 70 branded and own-label products – and will open in October. 

The refillable packaging trial will also be rolled out at two Co-op c-stores in Huddersfield and York, so Unilever can test how convenience customers use the products. 

The move comes after Unilever research found that 94% of consumers in the UK are more likely to invest in refills vs buying new products in store if available, and 89% are likely to buy a product because its packaging can be reused.

Unilever UK and Ireland general manager Sebastian Munden said: “To tackle plastic pollution with the speed and urgency needed, we are committed to creating scalable solutions which make it as easy as possible for people to make sustainable choices.

“We believe refills could be a gamechanger in our ambitions to halve our use of virgin plastic by 2025, however unlocking the full potential of the reuse economy would require a significant shift in how people shop.

“Using our well-known and trusted brands and working closely with retailers, we are testing different refill models on a large scale in order to continue to build our understanding of how to bring about a significant change most effectively.”

Asda director of sustainability Susan Thomas said: “We know that reducing packaging waste matters to our customers and they have embraced the refill options available at the Middleton store, with many of the products available already exceeding expectations.

“Our ultimate goal is to make refill and reuse a part of every Asda shopping trip and to achieve this we have to make it easy, accessible and affordable for all our customers to shop this way. Middleton was a great introduction to how customers engage with refill products and we are now looking to accelerate these learnings by trialling different refill options in more stores to understand which aspects can potentially developed further.”

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