A bespoke 14 litre HDPE reusable container designed and manufactured by Berry Global is playing a central role as the vessel for a new refill packaging solution from the Refill Coalition. The pilot for the solution was initiated at Aldi UK in its Solihull branch on October 23rd.

The Refill Coalition is Aldi UK, Ocado Retail and the supply chain solutions company CHEP and was convened in 2020 by GoUnpackaged, the UK’s leading refill experts. The refill project has created a standardised full supply chain solution to deliver refills at scale for key food staples, such as cereals and pasta, with a view to including household products such as cleaning and personal care in the near future.

The in-store retail refill system sees product filled into the Berry vessel and delivered to the store, where it is fitted into the specially designed refill station. When empty the container is returned for washing and refill. This solution offers efficiencies of scale and takes away the refill operation from individual stores, which frees up space in each retail outlet.

For the in-store system, Berry created a solution to a very specific brief. The vessel’s angled shoulder design ensures that all product is evacuated during refilling by consumers. A divorced carry handle prevents product from entering and becoming trapped inside the handle and facilitates easy cleaning while providing ease of use throughout the distribution chain. The design also allows the incorporation of an RFID chip, QR Code or similar device for tracking and product management.

HDPE was selected as the most appropriate material, with its robustness and durability suitable to withstand the repeated washing and distribution process to deliver the multiple uses required for the refill operation. While the mono layer construction - which facilitates recycling at the container’s eventual end of life - is currently in virgin HDPE, the Refill Coalition plans to introduce post-consumer recycled (PCR) into the container in the future, which will support supply chain compliance with Extended Producer Responsibility requirements.

Berry’s technical skills were also critical to the successful development of the vessel. The special angled neck shape required specialist in-mould cutting to create the opening in the container, a procedure that for more traditional shapes would normally be carried out after moulding.

In addition to the in-store refill system, a bulk home delivery refill solution, for which Berry has also developed a bespoke vessel, will be launched by Ocado Retail in early 2024.

The 3-litre version of the vessel has been designed to fit into the delivery crates used by Ocado Retail. Two neck sizes, 60mm and 80mm, with closures also supplied by Berry, mean there can be separate containers for dry and liquid products.

Refills provide an answer to the need to tackle single-use packaging waste. According to the Refill Coalition, if every household in the UK refilled just one item per week, this would eliminate over 1.4 billion single-use packs in a year*.

“Plastics’ versatility has been critical to the success of this project,” commented Edward Arnold, who has co-ordinated the project for Berry with its customer CHEP.

“We have been able to select a polymer that has the robustness for multiple reuse, while providing a lightweight solution for easy handling and to minimise the carbon impact of transportation. Equally important, plastic has the design flexibility to create two specific and totally different designs for both refill systems.

Designing for reuse is one of the key elements of Berry’s Impact 2025 sustainability strategy and commitments. This innovative refill solution demonstrates what can be achieved when all parts of the supply chain work together and we are very proud to have partnered with CHEP and the rest of the Refill Coalition to bring it to life.”

The Refill Coalition’s solution has been designed as a global standard that can be used by any supplier or retailer, enabling the fast adoption by industry to make refills available to every customer in the UK. Subject to the success of this initial trial, Coalition retailers will roll out refill stations across their stores and online.

“I am thrilled to see our collective vision with Berry and other partners of the Refill Coalition being introduced and tested in this pilot,” said Katrin Zeiler of CHEP. 

“At CHEP, our business is defined by our sustainable circular economy model of sharing and re-use. The pilot represents our commitment to redefining industry standards, reducing single-use packaging and fostering a regenerative supply chain to contribute to our sustainability goals.”

*Based on 2022 ONS figure of 28.2 million households in the UK