High-street chains and retailers including LEON, Neal’s Yard Remedies, Waitrose and Morrisons join innovative pilot to tackle single-use plastic

Plastic pollution campaigning organisation, City to Sea has announced the launch of an ambitious pilot with retailers, independents and high-street chains including LEON, Neal’s Yard Remedies, Pret, Morrisons, ASDA and Waitrose to champion refillable solutions in a bid to cut pollution caused by single-use packaging.

The pilot is the first of its kind and a natural step in the planned expansion of the award-winning Refill campaign, which already connects over 250,000 app users with over 30,000 independent businesses, transport hubs and retailers across the UK where they can fill up their reusable bottle for free, removing the need to buy bottled water.

The 3-month trial will take place in Oxford and Bristol, where the Refill campaign started life in 2015. App users in these locations will be able to use the free app to find out where to fill up not just their water bottle, but also their coffee cup, lunch-box, groceries and even cleaning products and toiletries.

At a time when the food to go sector is growing; an IDG reported in July this year that the UK food-to-go market is forecast to be worth £23.4bn by 2024, up from £18.5bn in 2019, growing by 26.4% and a Mintel report from 2018 shows that 75% of consumers eat lunch on the go every day of the week, it is vital consumers are offered a plastic free alternative.

The expanded Refill campaign will, for the first time, connect conscious consumers, that are looking to reduce their use of single-use plastic, with all the locations across the UK that are offering refillable options and will also highlight discounts that reward them for bringing their own container.

Already signed up to the pilot are: LEON, Pret, Neal’s Yard, Morrisons, ASDA, Costa and 70 independent businesses in Bristol and Oxford including River Cottage Canteen, Better Food Co in Bristol and Jericho Coffee Traders and Organic Deli Café in Oxford.

Involvement in the scheme has a number of benefits for business. By offering reusable or refillable options they can not only save money on packaging and waste management costs, but also again consumer trust

and satisfaction. Research has shown 85% of people would view businesses that offered Refills for food and drink a lot more positively and almost three-quarters of Brits are willing to use food refill services in order to cut down on waste and improve food sustainability for the environment, a Global data study revealed.

Rebecca Burgess, City to Sea CEO welcomes the level of commitment from so many independent businesses who have been pioneering refill options for some time and celebrates LEON’s involvement in the pilot, as the first major UK food-to-go chain to trial offering hot food in this way.

“It’s fantastic to see LEON blazing a trail in the sector and letting its customers try out bringing their own containers for selected food items, as well as hot drinks and water. We hope that their example will show other food-to-go chains that it’s infinitely possible to achieve this whilst ensuring food safety and customer satisfaction.”

The UK is a nation that loves to eat & drink on the go and consequently, packaging from the food-to-go sector is a huge cause of marine plastic pollution. Take-away food containers and cups are consistently in the top 10 most commonly found items on beaches and rivers in the UK and around the world1 2 In 2018, over 1.13 trillion items of packaging – most of them plastic – were used for food and drinks in the EU alone. It is clear as this market grows that a solution to single use waste is needed to keep pace with growth.

Rebecca Di Mambro, head of marketing for LEON, said: Sustainability will be the defining issue of our time, and it’s our mission to be the first generation to leave the planet in a better state than we found it. That’s why we’re so excited to be partnering with City to Sea on their refillable pilot at LEON Oxford. We know our guests want the opportunity to make more sustainable choices – we’ve seen a 300% uptake since we launched our reusable coffee cup discount over 18 months ago – and trialling refillable containers is the next step in reducing the amount of single-use material across LEON.

As well as encouraging diverse businesses to trial and expand the offer of reuse the three-month pilot hopes to demonstrate that concerns around health & safety (e.g. allergens & contamination) and operational challenges (for example speed of service) can be successfully overcome.

City to Sea & Refill are now looking for other forward-thinking businesses in the food-to-go or retail sector to participate in the pilot. It is welcoming businesses who already allow customers to bring their own containers for hot drinks, food & household/toiletries or those wanting to trial a refill service for the first time.

They are also working with large employers and offices to address the barrier that many people do not want to carry a reusable coffee cup or lunch box around with them. By working with employers to provide these items, we know uptake rises and this starts to have a knock-on effect on behaviour.