Sustainability is more important to customers than ever. That’s why we suggest taking steps such as securing recycled paper and paperboard, right-sizing packaging to eliminate unnecessary bulk, and switching to self-mailers to eliminate the outer envelope. Another way to approach sustainability in packaging is by introducing a “reuse and refill” option.

With “reuse and refill,” manufacturers sell products in reusable containers, then allow buyers to purchase refills in smaller, more environmentally friendly packaging. This results in the use of far less packaging material. When the refills are concentrated, it also results in less water use, reducing the weight of the package and, thereby, the amount of fossil fuel used to distribute them.

More and more major brands are investing in the reuse and refill model:

  •  Johnson & Johnson, for example, has launched reuse and refill packaging for brands such as Johnson’s Baby, Aveeno, OGX, and Le Petit Marseillas.
  • Unilever has launched a reuse and refill option for its body wash: Dove Body Wash Reusable Bottles + Concentrate Refills.
  • Colgate-Palmolive and Walmart are working together to develop Palmolive Shake & Clean dish soap, to be sold with a reusable bottle and one concentrated dish soap gel refill.

According to Unilever, if consumers use its reusable aluminum bottle, it takes only two refills before they’ve used 50% less plastic than if they had used the same volume of body wash in standard single-use packaging. If they are using a reusable plastic bottle, it takes four refills. Colgate-Palmolive claims its reuse and refill option reduces plastic waste by 75%.

While large manufacturers make significant investments in new production and packaging lines to create these products, smaller shops can adopt this concept on a smaller scale. Coffee shops could offer branded and beautifully designed coffee cans that coffee drinkers could refill rather than continually purchasing single-use bags. Specialty makers of household cleaning products could offer a “send back” program whereby customers return their reusable containers and receive them back refilled. Niche personal care products retailers could offer a refill option in the store.

There are many creative ways to offer reuse and refill options for your customers. With 72% of U.S. shoppers saying it is “more important than ever” to buy from companies that share their values, this is not only an Earth-friendly option, but it can be a good business move for you, too.

There are numerous advantages to selecting reusable packaging for your products. If commitment to sustainability is one of your brand’s core values, selecting this option is one method to demonstrate that devotion. From a marketing perspective, this also indicates to purchasers that your brand walks the walk.

Choosing reusable packaging also allows you to reduce your packaging costs and pass the savings on to your customers. With certain items, this is not possible. However, for products where it is practical, this can be an excellent approach to maintain reasonable, stable prices.

Globally, grocery stores are one sector that has embraced reusable packaging. Suppose your product falls into this category, such as loose tea, and your business model makes it simple for consumers to return the box to be refilled. In that case, refillable packaging may be an excellent choice for you.

However, remember that the convenience of returning to your store for a refill is generally what determines if refillable packaging is suitable for you. If you’re an eCommerce company, you can have customers send their tins/pouches/boxes back to be refilled. However, if you don’t provide a pre-paid mailing label with each initial transaction, the logistics and cost of this process may deter customers.

If refillable packaging is not practical for you, reusable packaging is still an option. By offering strong, aesthetically pleasing packaging, you may encourage customers to reuse it.

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