The Asda supermarket chain is joining forces with some of the UK’s best-known food and beverage brands to create a “sustainability” store, in the latest attempt to find and try new ways to eliminate unnecessary plastic and packaging.
Starting in May, its store in Middleton, Leeds, will become the first Asda in the United Kingdom, where buyers can fill their own containers with a range of products, from large brands to coffee and pasta with their own label.
Buyers can use the charging points stored with Kellogg cereals, such as Rice Krispies and Unilever PG Tips tea.
In addition to the refill stations, the store will house a “nude florist shop” that offers flowers without plastic and loose products with items such as cucumbers removed from their plastic containers. A range of recycling facilities will include a reverse vending machine for plastic bottles and cans and recycling of hangers.
The new style store will be a “live” test, monitored from its nearby headquarters. Customers will be asked to give their opinion in different formats. The trials will last at least three months before the decision is made to implement, re-judge or stop.
Plastic waste has become a major environmental problem, with television programs such as BBC One’s Blue Planet exposing its effects on the oceans, and media coverage highlighting the dangers of a global plastic binge.
Roger Burnley, executive director of Asda, said: “This is a journey we cannot do alone, so we invite our suppliers to innovate with us.” I am delighted that names known as Kellogg’s and Unilever have joined us to test new ideas and approaches to sustainability. “
The “no packaging” model that is based on refills to date has been used predominantly by independent retailers, delicatessens and farms, but supermarkets are increasingly testing it in a quest to reduce single-use plastics.
In June of last year, Waitrose launched a test at its Botley Road store in Oxford, which offers rechargeable options for products that include wine and beer (including Toast Ale), rice and cleaning materials, as well as loose fruits and vegetables without packaging and frozen “Choose and mix” section.
Since then, “unpacked” rechargeable areas have been added to their stores in Cheltenham, Wallingford and Abingdon.
In September, Sainsbury’s said that selling milk and soft drinks in returnable glass bottles was an option, while Tesco prohibits brands that use excessive packaging in their stores.
Daniel Webb, of the Everyday Plastic campaign group, said: “Offering less packaging through refill initiatives in major supermarkets represents a massive step towards reducing the amount of plastic thrown away.”