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Are Reuse and Refill Packaging Options for You?

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.


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