New ‘backwards’ refill rules hit Brighton & Hove

Customers at Infinity Foods in Brighton have expressed annoyance at changes to the refill system operated at the store – changes which the retailer has had to make in order to conform to updated regulations.

Previously, Infinity customers were able to refill liquid personal care and household products in their own containers; now, to guarantee compliance, those containers must match the brand and fragrance they are being refilled with.

One customer told local newspaper The Argus it was a ‘backwards act that will only deepen the impact we are having on our planet’.

A spokesperson for the co-op said the changes came about due to a ‘clarification in the current law from Trading Standards’.

“We are aware that many customers have had the same bottle for many years … but unfortunately we have had to make these changes,” he said, adding that until the end of 2019 a 10% discount would be offered on new refillable products and that old bottles would be recycled responsibly.

We are aware that many customers have had the same bottle for many years … but unfortunately we have had to make these changes

“The laws are to ensure the integrity of the container and correct labelling of the product. These laws only apply to cleaning products and cosmetics and will not be affecting dry food refills. There are many ways to be compliant with the law, but this is a way that we have found to make sure our customers are safe and we are protected within the law.”

For Faith in Nature – a brand stocked by Infinity – refills represent 25% of its business. Hannah Whittaker, head of marketing, comments previous lack of regulatory guidance and ‘clear support’ has been a problem: “Currently, there is no agreed legislation that is 100% safe-guarding the interests of the consumer, the brands and the retailers, who all want this avenue to work for everyone. We offer guidance to use our bottles and fragrances as a measure to protect all parties who touch the refill scheme, but we know this isn’t ideal.”

It is understood that Brighton & Hove Trading Standards will ensure shops around the city are compliant. NPN has contacted the authorities to establish whether the rule will be rolled out nationally and what the consequences of being in breach are; at time of print, local Trading Standards has not responded.