ASDA has opened a new ‘sustainability store’ in Middleton, Leeds. It has added refill stations, reverse vending machines and a vintage clothing aisle to one of its busiest stores in a bid to gauge consumer attitudes to more sustainable offerings. The features will run for a minimum of three months, and successful features will likely be rolled out across the country. But, what are the environmental benefits of this new initiative?
During the trial, customers will be able to choose from more than 30 packaging-free product lines from refill stations. They include Kellogg’s cereals, PG Tips tea bags, Quaker Oats porridge and Vimto cordial. Asda has also made some of its own-brand pasta and rice lines available in a packaging-free format. Cleaning and health and beauty products from Unilever will be available for a refill as well as groceries. Items stocked include Persil laundry detergent, Simple hand wash and Radox shower gel.
The store will also feature new recycling bins for items that are not collected at the kerbside by local authorities, including crisp packets, toothpaste tubes and plastic toys, and a reverse vending machine for cans, plastic and glass bottles. Reverse vending machine trials have proven successful for other retailers including Iceland, and the UK could soon play host to more of these machines once the Resources and Waste Strategy’s proposed deposit return system is introduced.
During the trial, customers will be able to choose from more than 30 packaging-free product lines from refill stations
There will be a spotlight on sustainable clothing. A local vintage seller, Pre-Loved, will put a range of items on display, and ASDA’s own clothing section will be reordered to promote items that contain sustainably-sourced materials and recycled polyester. The store also features a community zone, where it can host partnerships with charities including the Salvation Army.
The supermarket’s chief executive Roger Burnley called the opening of the store “an important milestone” in Asda’s “sustainability journey”. He said: “We have always known that we couldn’t go on this journey alone, so it is fantastic to work in tandem with more than twenty of our partners and suppliers, who have answered the call to test innovative sustainable solutions with us. This is an issue that matters greatly to our customers – our own insight tells us that more than 80% believe that supermarkets have a responsibility to reduce the amount of single-use plastics in stores.”
“We want to give them the opportunity to live more sustainably by offering them great product choices and value, underpinned by a promise that they won’t pay more for greener options at ASDA. During the next few months, we will listen to customers and colleagues’ feedback on Middleton so we can understand how we can continue to reduce our environmental impacts, whilst continuing to deliver quality service at a great price.”
The store has also committed to removing three billion pieces of single-use plastic from own-brand products by 2025
The store is currently a trial, and it is being used to test what sustainability measures can be rolled across all stores in the UK. It is estimated that these initiatives could save one million pieces of plastic each year – extend that to each of ASDA’s 631 stores and the impact would be huge. Mindful of its broader impact, the store has also committed to removing three billion pieces of single-use plastic from own-brand products by 2025 and has also passed a weight-based target of a 15% reduction in own-brand plastic packaging. ASDA is trialling 29 new lines of packaging-free fruit and vegetables after consumer research found most shoppers think this kind of packaging is unnecessary – this comes with the “Greener at ASDA Prince” promise, where unwrapped products will not cost more than wrapped equivalents.
The trial has been praised by environmental groups. Nina Schrank, the lead plastics campaigner at Greenpeace UK, said: “ASDA’s new sustainability store reflects what people are looking for – the opportunity to go plastic-free. We hope that this store is the first of many. We need to see so much more of this from across the supermarket sector.” Christina Dixon, senior ocean campaigner at the Environmental Investigation Agency, agreed, adding: “ASDA’s sustainability store shows real vision for a shopping experience that reduces plastic packaging and protects our planet, while also demonstrating that checking out on plastic doesn’t have to come with a hefty price tag.” The social media reaction has also been incredibly positive, indicating that we may see sustainable ASDA’s throughout the country very soon.