UK – The UK branch of supermarket chain Lidl has become the first supermarket in the UK to give customers access to an on-shelf smart refill machine with ‘smart’ pouches for their laundry detergent.

Located on-shelf in the store’s laundry detergent section, the compact machine features ‘smart’ pouches and will occupy the same amount of space as 66 standard Formil single-use bottles.

Designed by Chilean sustainability start-up Algramo, the machines feature an automated, touchscreen technology that allows customers to pick up pouches and select a detergent of their choice.

The ‘closed-fill’ technology is incorporated into the pouch cap, enabling customers to fill up even with the cap still open, thereby expediting the fill-up process while avoiding mess and spills.

In addition, a special chip is equipped with the smart Formil pouches, allowing the machine to differentiate between new and reused refill pouches.

Lidl GB corporate social responsibility manager Mark Newbold said: “We are incredibly proud of this latest innovation, which will enable our customers to save money and reduce their plastic consumption.

“We were the first UK supermarket to introduce smart laundry detergent refill stations and now we’re the first to introduce this next-generation design. It’s our strong belief that good quality and value should go together.”

Lidl GB will initially trial the machine at its stores in Swadlincote, Lichfield and Kingswinford.

The retailer said that the machine will be capable of filling more than 245 individual pouches, representing nearly a 300% increase in capacity.

The refills help customers save £0.20 (US$0.23) for each refill compared with the equivalent single-use product, while the ‘smart’ refill pouches save 59g of plastic for each refill.

The trial comes at a time when most people find low-plastic and no-plastic products more expensive than their equivalents housed in single-use plastic, according to a survey conducted by City to Sea.

According to the study, two-thirds of participants said the supermarkets and brands they have access to are not doing enough to provide affordable refill options or other packaging-free options.

Forty percent of people believe that zero-waste or plastic-free options are always more expensive.

Promisingly, the research findings do suggest that most people would use affordable refillable products, with accessibility and cost currently being the main barriers.

Ninety-three percent of people said they would like to see more of these options on offer, and 95% said they are concerned about plastic waste and pollution.

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