Aldi Package Free Products (2)

Source: Aldi

Aldi launched its own refill trial in 2021

Aldi has joined the Refill Coalition, in which member retailers aim to adopt a standardised and scaleable solution to packaging waste. 

The discounter joins Waitrose and Ocado in the coalition, while Morrisons and M&S have left.

The coalition aims to create an end-to-end solution to packaging waste by standardising the vessels that act as dispensers in refill stations in stores, where shoppers can fill their own containers. The intention is that retailers will be able to return the vessels to suppliers, who can then refill them for sending to other retailers.

The first store trial is expected to go live later this year, according to the coalition, along with a parallel home delivery solution to packaging waste.

However, the project has not been without setbacks since its launch by refillable solutions company Unpackaged in March last year.

Its first refill stations, containing dry store goods such as pasta and grains, were expected to land in stores last year, before the rollout was postponed to 2023.

Morrisons and M&S were members of the coalition at launch and remained involved when news of the delay emerged last August.

“Morrisons and M&S have currently left,” Unpackaged founder and director Catherine Conway confirmed today.

“Both companies were an integral part of the development of the project to date. Whilst their current focus is on different plastic reduction strategies, we are in regular contact and will always welcome them back into the coalition.”

Conway added: “The Refill Coalition solution is now in final production and the first store & online offer is expected to go live later this year. Having Aldi join as the UK’s leading discounter is a great addition to the coalition as we can reach more of the market with their involvement.”

Single-use plastic

The coalition believes its solution has the potential to play a key role in reducing the 56.5 billion units of single-use plastic packaging sold annually in the UK.

A spokeswoman added: “Some retailers have introduced refill stations already, seen as a key component in tackling single-use plastic packaging waste, but an end-to-end solution is needed to achieve scale – which is why industry-wide collaboration is crucial.”

Aldi UK plastics and packaging director Luke Emery said: “Aldi is dedicated to reducing single-use plastic, which is why we are pleased to become a member of the Refill Coalition.

“We look forward to working together with industry partners to offer customers even more convenient and efficient ways to shop plastic-free, and drive further uptake of unpackaged products.”

A Morrisons spokeswoman said: “Morrisons is fully supportive of the pioneering work being undertaken by the Refill Coalition and the principle of the industry working together to find solutions.

Read more: Why did Tesco call time on Loop packaging-free trial?

“We have been testing a range of refill initiatives in our stores and are currently reviewing the learnings from these before deciding the next step in refill for Morrisons. This does not preclude us from re-joining the Refill Coalition in the future nor rolling out this initiative in our stores and we remain in regular contact with them about their progress.”

An M&S spokeswoman said: “We withdrew from the Coalition to focus on accelerating our own plans to drive plastic-free and refillable options for customers, such as the expansion of M&S Refilled and continuing to develop our Fill Your Own proposition.

“We remain committed to working together and sharing learnings with the Coalition and its members to make scaling plastic-free refill choices easier.”

Aldi launched its own refill trial in April 2021, adding a bank of dispensers containing pasta and rice to a store in Ulverston, Cumbria. The trial ended at that store by August 2022, and Aldi later reintroduced the refill concept in a new ‘eco store’ that opened in Leamington Spa in September, with a fixture dispensing nuts and coffee.