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  • Refill-Reuse Solutions to Minimise Plastic Waste

    February 21, 2024

    Refill-Reuse Solutions to Minimise Plastic Waste

    Aurangabad, India

    Disposable plastic sachets are one of the most problematic forms of plastic pollution and a primary cause of ocean microplastic. They are used widely in India; some analysts say around 70% of all shampoo is sold in India in this disposable format. Last year, the UK-based refill-reuse company LESS& Ltd partnered with Aurangabad-based waste management company EcoSattva to implement a fully circular alternative to the disposable plastic sachet. They built their refill-reuse solution from the ground up, working with low-income groups and marginalised women, such as waste pickers.

    LESS& Ltd believe this circular solution is the only one in India developed with and for low-income groups, and that can meet the sachet price point.

    माझा शॅम्पू launches

    LESS& Ltd had hoped to work with leading brands, but were unable to find any willing to cooperate, so they launched their own shampoo brand to test within the refill-reuse system. From prior research, they knew that the target audience of women were very loyal to their preferred shampoo brand, and launching their own shampoo brand would be an additional and significant hurdle to overcome.

    To help get it right, they again worked closely with local marginalised women, who helped guide on all important elements of the brand, including look and feel, logo, imagery and colour, as well as the product itself, selected from a range of white label options alongside the market leader, Clinic Plus.  The brand was named झा शॅम्पू, (‘My Shampoo’ in Marathi). As much as possible, communication and label details are in the local language. The brand was launched within the pilot refill-reuse system late in 2022.

    Launch was supported with outreach programs to explain the benefits of refill-reuse solutions, and how they can help prevent plastic waste. Additional environmental benefits include preventing drains from clogging and flooding, and reduced risk of disease spread. Social benefits include bringing local jobs and helping the marginally employed, especially women, access new occupations. Consumers benefit too, since using a bottle is much nicer than using a sachet, according to 100% of surveyed respondents!


    A promising pilot

    LESS& Ltd tested different ways to distribute bulk product, including working with kirana stores and social selling. They faced some teething problems, but for the most part things have gone smoothly. The solution works well in urban and rural villages, and seems especially well suited to low-income households. After receiving a small free sample in a reusable bottle, consumers pay the same unit price as the market leading sachet (Clinic Plus). If they like the product, they get refills from a local distributor that purchases bulk containers from LESS& Ltd. It’s a simple closed-loop system that generates revenue.

    Even though they are not selling a known shampoo brand, women (consumers are almost always women) are keen to test the refill solution, and by far the majority stick with it. Just months into the pilot, demand is surprisingly stable. LESS& Ltd are currently preventing over 5000 sachets a month.


    A fantastic initiative, which Adelphi is proud to have supported!


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