The scheme, which is being rolled out in Co-op and Asda stores in Glasgow, York, Rugby, Milton Keynes and Leeds will test a range of different refill models to assess how consumers respond to reusable packaging.
Cleaning and toiletry products from Persil, Simple, Radox and Alberto Balsam will be available as part of the trials.
One “grab and go” option will allow shoppers to pick up a pre-filled stainless-steel bottle of a product and return it in-store once finished. The bottle will then be cleaned and re-filled.
An alternative “refill on the go” option will allow customers to purchase a reusable stainless steel bottle which they can refill themselves from a standalone refill station.
Sebastian Munden, Unilever UK & Ireland general manager said refills could halve the company’s use of virgin plastic by 2025. “However unlocking the full potential of the reuse economy would require a significant shift in how people shop.
“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,” he said.
The news comes after a poll by City to Sea and Friends of the Earth found that 81 per cent of British people want the UK government to make refillable products easier to buy and more widely available, as the main priority for reducing plastic pollution.
More than half of those surveyed, 55 per cent, said they think supermarkets and big-name brands are not doing enough to address plastic pollution.
One of the products people said they would like to see more refillable options of is laundry detergent.
“The results are in and couldn’t be clearer: public support for a world where plastic pollution isn’t choking our oceans, landscapes and wildlife is resounding,” Camilla Zerr, a plastics campaigner at Friends of the Earth, said.
“Big brands paving the way for more [refillable products] in supermarkets is needed, but trials in only seven UK stores is not especially ambitious for a company known as one of the world’s top four plastic polluters.
“The public mandate for refillable products is crystal clear. Ensuring that refill points are rolled out widely, and made affordable, is paramount,” she added.
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