To Reduce Plastic Use, Olay Tests Innovative Refill Pods

Procter & Gamble’s Olay, mindful of just how ugly beauty brands can be for the planet, says it plans to test using pod refills for best-selling Olay Regenerist Whips this fall.

Plans call for the pilot program, a first from a mass brand, to offer the product with one refill pod, which users can drop into the jar.

The program is scheduled to run through the end of the year, selling the two items online in the U.S. and the U.K., as well as through a handful of select retailers. If it is adopted companywide, it could potentially save 1 million pounds of plastic.

“We are still working through the marketing plans,” says Anitra Marsh, associate director of brand communications, global skin and personal care brands, via email. Since the product, which will also be sold in recycled packaging, is launching online, “we will be using digital marketing vehicles.”



While the test is a first for Olay, P&G has been looking for ways to reduce plastic use among its other brands. Dawn dishwashing liquid and Head & Shoulders shampoo, for instance, have experimented with bottles made from ocean plastic. And its beauty brands already partner with TerraCycle, a company that aims to increase recycling awareness in brands typically used in bathrooms instead of kitchens.

“The beauty of working for a company the size and scale of P&G is that we can learn across the different brands and reapply what works,” Marsh says. “We will be trying a lot of new things and seeing what works, all with the goal of making more of our packaging reusable or recyclable.”

Olay says it hopes to learn more “about the way consumers interact with refillable products, whether or not consumers like the idea of refillable skincare products and whether or not Olay’s design is intuitive.”

If successful, the refills, which are made of recyclable polypropylene, could be sold separately.

While plastic waste is a problem in all industries, it’s especially thorny in the beauty business, which cranks out 120 billion units of packaging each year. Besides the cardboard and cellophane, most of the plastic isn’t recycled, often because of the type of plastic, or the size and shape of the containers.

Another problem is that many products are purchased and then never fully used because consumers found they didn’t meet their needs after purchase. Olay is also working to sharpen its digital content, so users are more likely to buy the right product for their skin type to further eliminate waste.

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