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Refillable packaging

A collaborative project between Boots and Loughborough University (sponsored by DEFRA in the UK) has led to the development of a new concept for refillable packaging which utilises dissolvable packaging.  The new packaging concept, developed for the Botanics brand, aimed to meet the ‘body wash’ needs and wishes of 21-40 year old female customers, whilst promoting more sustainable behaviour.

Currently 200ml of body wash is provided in a blended polymer tube with snap fit PP cap filled with 200ml of shower gel.  The current packaging provides approximately 20 washes per tube.  It can not be separated for recycling or refilling.

The new concept which emerged from a series of creativity workshops comprises; a 150ml PET bottle and PP lid, an aerating pump (comprising PP, PVC and steel) (which is transported empty) and a tub made of PET with an aluminium lid which holds a number of PLA (dissolvable) sachets each containing 15ml of concentrated shower gel.  The way in which the new concept works is outlined in Figure 2.

The concept which was tested in two rounds of consumer focus groups, received positive feedback.    It was perceived as having added value, possibly as a result of the ‘jewel like’ quality of the concentrated refills and the high quality of the refill tub.  The ladies identified that for a product like this they would need to be willing to take the time to mix the product and as such it would fit higher end beauty products.  They related it to foaming cleansers and hair dyes.  Testing which went along side this concept did however illustrate that these types of refills MUST be delivered and communicated in the right way.  For example if the refill appears wasteful in itself, consumers hate it.  Equally if a refill is too small and looks low end, they won’t  be willing to pay much for it.

Environmental analysis using the Ecodesign web and EcoIndicator 95 demonstrated a number of environmental improvements at different stages of the life cycle.  Compared to the current packaging it was found that the new concept would:
• use 59.8% less packaging material (by weight) over a 6 month period.  
• lead to a reduction in the amount of resources used in the manufacture of the product and packaging. 
• result in 81.37% less material going to landfill, because around 55% of the material can be recycled in this concept, and the dissolvable sachets generate no waste, compared with 0% of the current packaging.
• lead to 90.68% less weight (material + shower gel) being transported over a 6 month period because the bottle is transported empty and the concentrated product is much lighter (even with the tub packaging), thus leading to economic and environmental savings transport. 
• mean that less surfactants are needed in the product because of the delivery of the new concept via the pump pack.

Concept Storyboard
More information

More information is available via the project website or by contacting the Project Manager Dr Vicky Lofthouse in the Department of Design and Technology at Loughborough University on