Insights / Sustainability

Refillable & Reusable Packaging: Extending the Life of Products

Consumer refills product in an amber bottle

Refillable and reusable packaging refers to a packaging system of replenishing the product inside a primary or original package that can be used over and over again. The objective is to reduce waste by promoting reuse.

Why Reusable Packaging Matters

“Reduce, Reuse, Recycle” has become the mantra of the circular economy, which aims to keep products and materials in use as long as possible. Refillable and reusable packaging extends the life of products. It minimizes the extraction of natural resources, reduces the energy needed to produce new packaging, lowers greenhouse gas emissions, and decreases waste.

Refillable packaging fosters brand loyalty through repeat product purchases. Supplying refill products in a compact or concentrated form reduces packaging and transportation costs.  

Four Reuse Models for Refillable Packaging

Consumer packaged goods (CPG) companies can choose from four reuse models for their packaging systems: refill at home, refill on the go, return from home, and return on the go.

  1. With the refill-at-home and refill-on-the-go systems, consumers keep and reuse a container multiple times instead of disposing of it after a single use.
  2. For the at-home model, shoppers can purchase refill products in-store, online, or through direct-to-consumer (D2C) subscription services. Refill-on-the-go systems require consumers to visit a store or dispensing location to refill their package.
  3. With the return-from-home model, the packaging is picked up from consumers' homes and returned to the brand owner, who cleans and refills the package. E-commerce facilitates this packaging reuse model today. In the mid-twentieth century, local dairies employed this model to distribute milk in glass jugs.
  4. Return-on-the-go systems compel consumers to return the packaging to a store or drop-off location where the brand owner collects it. In the 1940s and 50s, this model dominated the reuse of glass bottles for beer and soft drinks.

While reusable packaging spans many product categories, it is becoming more popular for personal care and household/home care products.

Case Study: Amika

Amika refillable shampoo and conditioner bottles with PCR content

Berlin Packaging | Jansy helped hair-care brand Amika a Certified B Corporation unpack their sustainability potential with new packaging featuring post-consumer recycled (PCR) content and refillable shampoo and conditioner bottles.

We reduced Amika's virgin plastic usage by integrating 30% to 70% PCR content into their PET bottles and 90% PCR content into their PE bottles. Constructed of shatter-resistant co-polyester, the “forever friendly” reusable shampoo and conditioner bottles have a 69% lower environmental impact over one year of use compared to the two PCR bottles.

Explore related topics: Life-Cycle Assessment, Ocean-Bound Plastic, PCR Content, Compostable Packaging, Container Deposit/Refund Programs, Mechanical and Advanced Recycling, and Bioplastic

Robert Swientek

By: Robert Swientek
Date: October 9, 2023

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