A major supermarket refill initiative that was due to land in stores this year has been pushed back to 2023.
The Grocer learned this week of delays to the work carried out by The Refill Coalition, comprised of Waitrose, Marks & Spencer, Morrisons and Ocado as well as supply chain solutions company CHEP and refill experts Unpackaged.
In March this year, the coalition revealed its ambition to trial a refill solution in stores and online before the end of this year. The group described the trials as “key” to tackling the amount of single-use plastic packaging sold every year in the UK.
However, The Grocer has learned the rollout of the refill solution is now planning to go live in the first quarter of 2023.
The solution will include refill stations for products including pasta, grains and personal care items across both physical stores and online, as well as a bulk home delivery service that has been hailed as an industry first.
The coalition members have pledged to roll out the solution to all stores across the country if the trials prove successful.
“The partners in The Refill Coalition, along with their suppliers and equipment manufacturers, have been working exceptionally hard to bring this solution to life,” said Catherine Conway, founder of Unpackaged.
“The coalition is very much looking forward to being able to offer customers this refill solution in the new year.”
The delay comes in the wake of several plastic-free and refill initiatives being axed by the supermarkets altogether.
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Last month, Tesco quietly wound up its reusable packaging trial with refill specialist Loop, after admitting such initiatives would require a major shift in shopper mindsets. Aldi also ended its packaging-free trial at a store in Cumbria this month.
This was despite Wrap’s announcement earlier this year that plastic used on fresh fruit & veg will be added to the list of packaging retailers and suppliers will look to remove as part of the UK Plastics Pact.
The government also introduced a single-use plastic tax in April to encourage greater use of recycled plastics and other alternatives to disposable plastics.
But as the cost of living crisis has worsened, fears that progress has stalled have also grown, with green initiatives from both government and the industry taking a step back as the country deals with rising energy and fuel costs.
“Our partners know what their obligations are, and that the regulatory landscape surrounding single-use plastic packaging is changing and it will become more expensive for them to put the same level of single-use plastic packaging on the market,” Conway said. “They are therefore looking for solutions and this is one of those potential solutions.”
“The key thing is sharing learnings so the industry can move forwards,” she added.