In partnership with Reposit, M&S is expanding its Refilled scheme for own-brand cleaning and laundry products in an effort to cut down on plastic packaging and provide consumers with sustainability-minded alternatives.

A successful trial was carried out at six M&S stores in 2022, with a further nineteen set to be included in the expansion – raising the total number of participating stores to 25.

Compared to the previous eight, consumers can now choose from ten pre-filled, own-brand homecare products. These include cleaning sprays, laundry detergents, fabric conditioners, and washing up liquids.

After paying an initial £2 for the returnable bottle, consumers can use the container and return it to an M&S store once it is empty. They will then receive a £2 voucher, which can be redeemed against a second purchase in the M&S Refilled range.

Apparently, over 10,000 consumers have participated in the scheme so far, and M&S identifies its Citrus Washing Up Liquid as the most popular product.

It is estimated that expanding into additional stores across the UK will remove 15,000 pieces of plastic in line with M&S’ Plan A target to remove one billion units of plastic packaging by 2027. In turn, it plans to reach net zero by 2040.

“At M&S, we want to support our customers live more sustainably,” explained Lucina Langton, head of Sustainability at M&S Food. “We know they care deeply about us reducing plastic packaging and are continuing to look for ways they can make small changes in their everyday lives.

“Our Refilled scheme has proven hugely popular – showing there is high demand for refillable and great value options – so we’re delighted to be able to introduce this into even more of our stores across the UK this month.”

The retailer is also in partnership with Reposit, Ecover, and City to Sea in a project supported by UKRI’s Smart Sustainable Packaging Fund to demonstrate returnable packaging systems at scale.

Stuart Chidley, co-founder at Reposit, continued: “Reposit are delighted to have worked closely with M&S to build a scalable standardized returnable packaging solution that works for business and customers. This scale-up is the result of strong customer engagement which we hope will result in more action across the retail industry to offer customers a convenient alternative to single-use packaging.”

Jane Martin, head of Development at City to Sea, concluded: “Our consumer research shows that customers are ready to shop more sustainably but a major blocker is being able to access alternatives to single-use on the high street. By taking part in this cross-industry collaboration, M&S are leading the way to unlocking the circular economy.”

M&S also highlights its removal of 75 million units of plastic in 2023/24, four months earlier than originally planned.

It also worked with beauty recycling expert HANDLE to launch a Beauty Takeback Scheme in the summer of 2023. The scheme intended to direct hard-to-recycle beauty packaging away from landfill and keep its materials in the loop.

Another retailer embracing reuse is Aldi. It previously joined Ocado, Waitrose & Partners, and CHEP as a member of Unpackaged’s Refill Coalition, in which members seek to co-design a refill solution to reduce single-use plastic packaging in retail.

Since then, the Coalition has piloted an in-store refill system for dry goods at Aldi’s Solihull store and online in hopes of reducing single-use plastics.

If you liked this article, you might also enjoy:

The L’Oréal approach to packaging sustainability

The way we talk about plastic needs to change – here’s how to get it right

What steps is Apple taking to make its packaging more sustainable?

The Danone approach to packaging sustainability