Resource Efficient Innovations Database (REID)

Innovative refillable pouch system

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Innovative refillable pouch system
Refillable pouch system reduces packaging waste.
In Development – A working prototype of both the package and the dispensing machine have been produced. Field trials are now underway.

Benefits
Packaging Reduction, Reuse

Product Categories
Home Improvement, Household & Personal Care

Relevant Materials
Plastic – Flexible

Relevant Packaging Formats
Flexible & Films

Supply Chain Phase
Consumer, Design, Filling

Details

A UK-funded R&D project has developed a sophisticated refillable pouch solution for non-food grocery products. The flexible, refillable pouch incorporates a highly sophisticated cap. A valve within the cap allows the pack to be refilled in a consumer-operated dispensing machine without the consumer having to remove the cap first. The pouches have been deisgned for at least ten reuses. Consumers receive a small discount for each reusing the pouch to incentivise adoption.
 
The objective of the project, which has been funded by the UK Technology Strategy Board, was to test the feasibility of innovative packaging formats to improve sustainability. The initial motivation for the refillable pouch was to fill the need for affordable, intermediate sized packaging solutions in developing and emerging markets. In these markets price concious consumers often purchase products such as shampoo and fabric conditioners in 6-8ml sachets as opposed to 100 ml bottles which are too expensive.  However, although small sachets are popular with consumers the sachets go to landfill. The packaging cost of intermediate packs such as 50-60 ml bottles are unaffordable, so the team was looking to develop an intermediate sized solution with an attractive price point whilst reducing waste.
 
A working prototype of both the package and the dispensing machine have been produced. The next step is to test the solution in the field to see how it performs in the real world. Consumer reaction and how the pack withstands real use will be key focuses for the field trials.
 
Although the solution has been developed in response to a need for affordable mid-sized packaging in developing and emerging markets, it is possible to envisage the solution being adapted to deliver refillable packaging solutions for non-food grocery products in developed markets.
 
The pouch and dispenser solution has been developed by a consortium of companies working with the Sequoia Partnership and the project is now entering the pilot phase with the intention to roll out the system in the near future if trials are successful. 
 
The content in this entry has been obtained from publicly available information sources only (e.g. press releases, website and trade press articles) and is subject to completion of a validation process with the technology supplier.

Potential Benefits

The specific environmental benefit of the solution in its current guise is the removal of small sachet packaging from the supply chain in developing and emerging markets.  This is particularly useful as recycling opportunities are often limited in such markets so flexible plastic waste is likely to go to landfill.  It is also hoped that removing small sachets will aid brand image as discarded branded sachets may form negative associations for the brand.
 
However, the concept could be applied more widely as a resource efficient alternative to many non-food grocery liquid products. In this case, the main banefit is likely to be improved resource efficiency as the refillable pouches will use considerably less resources than other packaging formats such as bottles or single-use pouches.

Intellectual Property

The new packaging solution has been developed by a consortium of companies working with the Sequoia Partnership. Consortium partners include AkzoNobel, Esiserv, Unilever, PI Global and Forum for the Future.

Consultant View

This highly innovative solution is initially focused on replacing small sachets in developing and emerging markets. However, it is possible to envisage this technology being adapted as a resource efficient refillable packaging solution for non-food products in developed markets. In this case, the marketing emphasis is likely to be much more on the environmental benefits of the solution rather than the price point benefits.
 
The solution may also be applicable to some liquid home improvement products (such as cleaning agents), but is unlikely to be appropriate for food use.

Researchers who are interested in reusable primary packaging solutions should search the REID database for other examples using terms such as "Refillable", "Returnable" and "Reuseable".

Contacts and Further Information

David Bosomworth
The Sequoia Partnership
Berwyn House
2-4 High Street
Chalfont St Peter
Buckinghamshire
SL9 9QA
Tel: 01753 891 400
 
A video describing the system can be viewed at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y1OdrkYCPo0

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