• Refillable: Olay beauty products trial by Procter & Gamble could lead to plastic packaging volumes being slashed across multiple brands and products.
    Refillable: Olay beauty products trial by Procter & Gamble could lead to plastic packaging volumes being slashed across multiple brands and products.

In a world first FMCG giant Procter & Gamble is set to pilot skincare products in refillable containers, which it says could dramatically reduce the amount of packaging used in the beauty category.

Beginning in October and running through the end of the year, its Olay brand will offer its best-selling Olay Regenerist Whip moisturiser with a refill pod that fits right in the jar, in a trial to take place in the US and UK markets. 

The company says that if adopted, and if the brand moved a significant portion of Olay Regenerist moisturiser jars to refillable pods - five million jars' worth - then that would save half a million kilos of plastic a year on that product alone. If taken up by other products, and brands, refillable packaging could have a huge impact on packaging volumes.

In the trial, consumers will be able to purchase the refillable Olay Regenerist Whip package that contains one full jar of Olay Regenerist Whip and one refill pod of moisturiser that can be placed inside the jar once it is emptied. The package will be sold and shipped in a container made of 100 per cent recycled paper, and will not contain an outer carton, in order to reduce the use of paperboard.

Procter & Gamble says the pods themselves are also recyclable, although green lobby group Greenpeace disputes this, saying the polypropylene plastic used is not accepted for recycling by an increasing number of local authorities.

Olay says its refillable product concept is just one step in the brand’s commitment to making more of its packages recyclable or reusable, and is part of P&G’s larger sustainability initiatives.

P&G was the first CPG company to respond to TerraCycle’s innovative Loop concept, where its leading brands will redesign packaging and supply chain processes. 

"The ultimate goal is to find and adopt many more sustainable packaging solutions, and the refillable Olay Regenerist Whip package is the first step of that journey," said Anitra Marsh, associate director of sustainability and brand communications for skin and personal care. "It is really important for us to get it right, because only then can we bring this concept to market at scale."

Olay will test its refillable Olay Regenerist Whip moisturiser on Olay.com in the US and UK and select at retailers for a three-month period, then evaluate the learnings to inform future packaging. Olay hopes to learn more about the way consumers interact with refillable products in beauty, including whether or not consumers like the idea of refillable skincare products and whether or not Olay’s design is intuitive. Over time, the refills could be sold separately.

The move comes under P&G’s Ambition 2030 programme, in which the company has set several goals to reduce the environmental impacts of its packaging, including 100 per cent recyclable or reusable packaging by 2030.

Here in Australia Procter & Gamble has already teamed up with TerraCycle's Loop to create outdoor classrooms from recycled plastic waste. Click here for details.

Procter & Gamble's move comes just a week after UK supermarket chain Waitrose launched a packaging-free store as an experiment, with multiple food, beverage and household products coming in dispensers.

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