Where refillable packaging systems survive in the UK, they are underpinned by economic factors rather than any government subsidy. These key factors are:
  • Producer managed supply chains, which control the circulation of the refillable packaging, thereby ensuring high capture rates and multiple trips.
  • Elements of the packaging being regarded as valuable e.g. a gas canister, lighter or shaver, dispensing top for hand soaps.
  • Protection of valuable contents. Refillable packaging tends to be stronger and heavier.
  • The proximity of filling to consumption, so that transport costs are reduced.
  • Outsourcing of the filling function to the consumer.
  • An opportunity to demonstrate 'green' credentials, which may underpin the 'branding' strategy.

We have highlighted a number of newly developed systems involving in-store and home dispensing, which offer manufacturers and retailers the opportunity to reduce packaging of consumer products. However, further research is required into the actual packaging reductions achieved and any consequent negative environmental effects both in terms of substitution of materials and the need for greater transportation distances.