Circular economy platform Re has received a £3 million funding, courtesy of the UK Research and Innovation’s (UKRI) Smart Sustainable Plastic Packaging (SSPP) challenge. Founded by Beauty Kitchen, Re’s goal is to reuse items in order to stop the influx of single-use plastic in the beauty industry.
According to Re, more than four million bottles were prevented from entering landfill in a trial. The new funding will allow for a wider rollout and further developments, preventing a further 100 million plastic bottles entering landfill in the next three years.
Any packaging with the Re logo can be returned for washing and processing to reenter the supply chain an “infinite number of times”, creating zero new waste. Additionally, consumers will be able to choose to refill their products, another initiative which has been tested in 19 UK supermarkets. So far, beauty, skincare and cosmetics are the main sectors being focussed on.
Jo-Anne Chidly, co-founder of Beauty Kitchen and Re said in a statement: “All three of the key elements of the circular economy are buying into it. The consumers love it, the brands who use the reusable containers are very pleased, and the big retailers are all for it. This is how you make change and reduce waste.”
Re will include several initiatives that can work in synergy towards waste reduction. Advanced refill systems will be placed in prominent locations and pre-filled smart products will be easily available.
Interactive packaging return points are part of the strategy. Smart bottles, made from steel, glass and washable plastics are traceable and provide analytics about consumer behaviour and scheme adoption. Consumers are able to scan a QR code on the bottles and discover how many times they have been reused already. They can plant trees, collect reward points and monitor impact alongside.
Re’s trial regarding refill items, carried out in partnership with retail consultancy RBC Group and environmental charity City to Sea, showed positive results. An overall 80% return/refill rate was identified, with 64% of consumers saying they would be willing to switch to a retailer that offered a refill station if their favourite did not. Additionally, 94% of people claimed they would shop more in locations with refill stations, with 95% stating they had a “good” or “very good” experience while using Re facilities. 96% of people revealed they would buy from refill stations.
The new funding will allow the Re project to include location-based updates, via the City to Sea refill app, as to nearby outlets that are onboard with the programme.
So far, 11 companies have signed up to work with Re, with Unilever bringing four of its brands to the programme.The latest is Elemis, a heritage British skincare brand known for luxury products. Asda, Co-Op and Sainsbury’s are the first supermarkets to align with the platform.