The new supermarket strategy for cutting plastic packaging is good news for kitchen designers as well as the environment

As confusion regarding recycling continues, and doubts persist as to where the items that we send for recycling actually end up, supermarkets are increasingly turning to alternative strategies to reduce the amount of plastic packaging they use, and to engage with eco-conscious and eco-anxious consumers who are keen to cut down on waste.

Supermarkets are increasingly turning to alternative strategies to reduce the amount of plastic packaging they use, and to engage with eco-conscious who are keen to cut down on waste. Click To Tweet

At the beginning of March it emerged that Marks & Spencer has decided to extend its ‘fill your own container’ scheme, which it trialled at its Hedge End store in Southampton with products such as pasta and rice, and it now has plans to roll out in its Manchester city centre store.

The retailer said that in the initial trial it had offered 44 plastic-packaging-free products and that out of those, 25 were proving more popular than their plastic-packaged equivalents, which it saw as proof that consumers are becoming more mindful regarding the way in which they shop.

This was confirmed by research carried out by YouGov for the retailer, which found that consumers are making efforts to shop in a more environmentally friendly way and are turning away from products that are covered in plastic packaging.

Marks & Spencer isn’t the only brand to wake up to this trend.

Last month Sainsbury’s announced that it was unveiling dedicated Ecover washing and laundry detergent refill points to be available in cleaning aisles.

As part of the retailer’s plans to become Net Zero by 2040, customers in Harringay can now refill cleaning product bottles and the trial will be extended to a further 19 stores later this year.

Similarly, Waitrose has launched its Unpacked scheme at four of its stores, which it says is an alternative way of shopping that features a dedicated refillable zone and frozen pick-and-mix.

And Asda has launched a sustainability store in Leeds, where customers can also use refill stations.

With some dairies also reporting a surge of interest in refillable glass bottle delivery services following the screening of David Attenborough’s Blue Planet II, it’s clear that consumers are seeking out ways to reduce plastic waste and view refill and reuse as viable ways to achieve this.

So why does this matter?

If refill stations are to become the ‘new normal’ in the same way that consumers now take their own bags with them whenever they shop, then there are implications for kitchen design.

More storage will be needed for the receptacles we take to refill with cleaning products and foodstuffs, and we need to devise more ways in which to keep food fresher for longer in the absence of it being covered in plastic packaging when we purchase it – there’s no point in embarking on this route if all we do is bring food home and then cover it in plastic film once we get it there.

With 2019 figures from Greenpeace stating that supermarkets put over 900,000 tonnes of plastic packaging on their shelves a year, and integrating waste management systems in the home already proving a challenge for kitchen designers, the refill strategy is a welcome one.

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