2 November 2023
by Hassan Akhtar

UK Refill Coalition launches pilot at retailer Aldi

The Aldi UK store in Solihull is the first one to trial a food refill system.

© Unsplash/Maddi Bazzocco

A reusable bulk vessel for key food staples like cereal and pastas, as well as household products like cleaning and personal care products, will be placed inside the store with customers only having to bring their own containers.

Online delivery sees a customer-sized vessel that is prefilled by the supplier and returned to the Ocado driver once empty.

The Refill Coalition consists of Aldi UK, Ocado Retail and supply chain solutions company CHEP, and is supported by UK Research and Innovation Smart Sustainable Plastic Packaging Challenge fund, delivered by Innovate UK.

If successful, the trial - which has been developed with the help of Berry Global, DIGI and Eden and Trade Fixtures - will roll out to Coalition retailers in their stores and online in early 2024.

It is hoped that the system becomes standard practice increasing the number of store types that can sell refills. Catherine Conway, Director at GoUnpackaged, who convened the Coalition in 2020, says ‘An industry-wide approach will lead to a refill system that works for everyone in the supply chain and make refilling easier for shoppers’. It is also reported that the products will be sold at a cheaper price than their packaged equivalents.

Based on ONS figures, if every household in the UK refilled just one item per week, this would eliminate over 1.4 billion items of single-use packaging per year.

For instore refills, each reusable vessel replaces 24 single-use plastic packs. For online delivery, each consumer-sized vessel replaces five single-use plastic packs. Both figures are based on 500g of rice.

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Hassan Akhtar