With industry leaders admitting that up to 40% of a product's selling price is packaging cost, a wise consumer can search for ways to purchase products in bulk or high concentration, which results in less packaging. Another factor is the actual rising cost of the raw material to produce the packages. Material costs are approximately 80% of the expense. Factoring in the cost of the packages in addition to the additional resources required to transport packaged goods takes a toll on both the environment and the wallet.
Traditionally, Americans have been slow refill empty containers, citing inconvenience and messiness as the primary reasons. But with containers and packaging accounting for nearly one third of a municipality's solid waste, it's worth it to examine refilling already manufactured containers. Refilling with concentrated product and adding water at home reduces the weight of shipping costs as well as packaging. Currently, window cleaner refills are being test marketed via mail order by Windex®.
According to SC Johnson CEO, Fisk Johnson,
“By conservative estimates, a flexible pouch saves six times as much plastic waste that goes into a landfill compared to a traditional bottle. Refilling with a concentrate is an example of a very small behavior change that could make a real difference in minimizing waste. But many people don't want the inconvenience. We want to crack the code and figure out what it would take to make concentrated refills an accepted – even demanded – choice.”Concentrated cleaners save the consumer from spending money on water that is already available to them. As we've stated in the past, there is no reason to pay for additional water in products when it is so easy to add at home.
Other manufacturers are also working to reduce their packaging as DuPont's chart demonstrates with efforts to use sustainable material as well as weight reduction.
There are some precautions to take into account when refilling containers, beginning with checking the type of plastic that is used. #1 plastics should not be reused for food, as they may leach DEHP, a known carcinogen. However, for cleaning products and other inedible goods, reusing the bottles is a wise choice.
Bulk shopping offers another alternative to prepackaged merchandise, and the shopper can purchase the exact amount they need and try new products without a big investment.
With a little mindful shopping, a consumer can easily adopt the 4th R of living that is friendly to both the environment and the wallet. REfill!
Today's Wall Street Journal examines the refill issue at great length in Little Package, Small Problem.