Award-winning campaign Refill expands to increase sales of reuse and packaging free as demand soars

5 October 2020

Plastic pollution campaigning organisation, City to Sea are taking the award-winning Refill campaign to the next level. From today (1st October) customers will be able to use the free app to find out where to refill their coffee cup, lunchbox, groceries and even cleaning products and toiletries, making it the world’s first dedicated app to helping people find where they can bring their own containers – shunning single-use plastic for good. It will also highlight discounts available, rewarding customers for reducing packaging. Businesses offering reuse or packaging free options can use the app as a free marketing platform to drive footfall and increase sales.

Rebecca Burgess, CEO of City to Sea said today: “The expansion of Refill marks a positive and significant step in tackling the mountains of avoidable single-use waste created everyday. Refill has already proven that buying habits can change. Last year the bottled water industry reported their first decline in sales (£34.2 million loss) after significant growth for the last 5 years[3]. We’re advocating this trend to expand beyond water to other reuse options. With Costa, Morrisons, LUSH and thousands of independents already on-board, we now need more businesses to truly build back better and make pointless packaging a thing of the past.”

Convenience at a cost

The launch of the expanded Refill campaign comes at a critical time for our planet following a tidal wave of single-use plastic in the wake of the global pandemic. It marks a game-changing moment that paves the way for much needed action on plastic in the hospitality and retail sectors.

Packaging from the food-to-go sector is a huge cause of marine plastic pollution, with take-away packaging consistently in the top 10 most found items on UK beaches. A global report launched in August revealed that food wrappers are now the most found item on beaches around the world overtaking cigarettes for the first time2. 

Since March, many cafes and retailers temporarily stopped the use of reusables and increase the use of single-use plastic, despite over 100 health experts stating reusables are perfectly safe to use[4] and only 5% of customers thinking single-use items are safer than reusables.[5] Research conducted in 2019 found that more than half of customers say they are actively trying to buy groceries that are not sold in plastic packaging[6] and 75% are willing to use refill services[7].

The expansion of Refill to food and household goods coincides with the long-awaited ban on plastic straws, cotton buds and stirrers which also comes into force today in England.

“The trend for zero waste retail continues to develop exponentially. Despite the COVID-19 crisis, the public are still focused on reducing single-use plastics and calling on retailers to offer solutions, helped in no small part by the Blue Planet effect,” says Catherine Conway, founder of Unpackaged, which operates a number of refill concessions in Planet Organic and the independent sector. 

Businesses urged to get involved

Along with thousands of independent businesses, including over 100 zero-waste shops, there are several leading retailers and brands involved.  In September Morrisons rolled-out plastic-free fruit and veg areas in over 300 of their stores, in a bid to help customers buy bagless. Steven Butts, Head of Corporate Services at Morrisons: “We know our customers want to reduce the amount of plastic they use.  Being able to reuse and refill containers is a good way to do this. The Refill app is a great way to increase people's awareness about the increasing number of opportunities to reuse.”

In addition, today City to Sea announce a new official Partner as Circular&Co get behind the Refill scheme. Every new Refill X Circular cup sold will donate £5 to Refill.


Dan, CEO & Founder of Circular&Co said today: “We are delighted to be partnering with Refill to help champion their Refill Revolution. The days of carefree consumption are over, and now more than ever we all need to adopt a refill and reuse lifestyle. Backed by our reusables which are manufactured from waste, designed for longevity and fully recyclable, together we can close the loop and eliminate the very concept of waste.”


City to Sea are now looking for other forward-thinking businesses in the food-to-go or retail sector to get involved. They are welcoming businesses who already allow customers to bring their own containers or offer packaging-free options, or those wanting to trial a refill service for the first time. Businesses can sign up for free, listing their location on the app.

Download the free app here to find out where to fill up and add your favourite places:


[1] 2019’s Packaging Trends and Outlook report from Technomic:




[5] Brita/You Gov -  



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