The overall objective of this applied research project is to develop refillable packaging systems within a product service system context, which aims to fulfil customer needs whilst attaining greater eco-efficiencies (Mont, 2002), and investigate their feasibility within the personal care market. If successful, these new refills systems will have the potential to reduce household waste in line with DEFRA’s research interests outlined in programme area 1.3(ii). In addition to this, there is the possibility that innovations in refillable packaging based on enhanced customer convenience could facilitate pro-environmental behaviour which would also contribute to programme areas 5.1 and 5.3. The outcomes from this project will provide new understanding regarding the appropriateness of using refills as an approach to reducing packaging waste, as well as illustrating how well these new types of delivery systems are received by the customer.
Between 1996/7 and 2002/3 municipal waste increased by 19% to 29.3 million tonnes (DEFRA, 2004) and total packaging waste in the UK rose to over 10 million tonnes in 2003 (Environmental Services Association, 2004). Approaches to dramatically reduce the amount of packaging waste going to landfill need to be identified. The use of refillable packaging has long been cited as a possible solution to this problem. However in the past attempts to extend the use of refillables beyond a few traditional areas have met with little success. In May 2003 no major retailers operated any schemes in the reuse of primary packaging (Darlow, 2003). Darlow identified that “opinion amongst those in the retail supply chain is that reuse on a large scale would not work in this country due to: Health & Safety and Hygiene Regulations; the logistical complexities of a multidirectional supply chain; price of new packaging; and customer behaviour” (p13) (2003).
It is believed that recent advances in technology, particularly new forms of retailing such as internet shopping and the development of product service systems may provide the opportunity to re-evaluate the role of refillable packaging systems. This innovative project will address these issues and consider different ways of delivering refills in a product service systems context, to encourage the purchasing of refills whilst enhancing customer convenience and reducing packaging waste. If successful it is believed that refillable packaging will help to dramatically reduce household waste, which is in line with DEFRA’s research interests under programme area 1.3(ii). In addition to this, there is the possibility that innovations in refillable packaging based on enhanced customer convenience could facilitate pro-environmental behaviour, in this case the project would also contribute to programme areas 5.1 and 5.3.