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Sustainability in Packaging: The Role of Aluminium Bottles in Reuse and Refill Schemes

We recognise the significance of design for reuse and refill, as they constitute two of the four Rs (Reduce, Reuse, Refill, Recycle) that are fundamental to the packaging industry and at the forefront of consumer demands. Adrian Wade, Head of Supply Chain at BlueSky, delves into the subject of designing for refill and reuse, with a focus on aluminium bottles.


Are aluminium bottles suitable for refill schemes?

They are an excellent choice for refill schemes, but there are many variables that we need to be aware of. The most significant variable is that the lacquer is tested for the proposed life journey of the bottle. If the company offering the refill scheme assumes that the consumer will use and refill the bottle 100 times, the company needs to ensure that the process of washing is applied, and tests are done to ensure that the lacquer maintains its integrity for this cycle.

It is important to know that some refill schemes are smaller companies offering this directly to the end use, for example a smaller brand selling shower gel directly to the consumer, and the consumer is then responsible for the washing process and reuse. There are also larger companies running refill schemes where the product is returned and goes through a washing process and the product is then refilled. Both examples are very different and affect how the lacquer may respond. We’ve learned from certain brands and bottle manufacturers that their washing processes can impact the longevity of repeated refills, therefore it’s important to test the number of refills that the lacquer can withstand.

We always advise our customers that the testing lies with the developer of the refill scheme, and they need to be clear and advise their consumers how to safely wash the product, if the consumer is refilling themselves. If it is as simple as buying a new pouch of gin and pouring it into a bottle, this is fine (due to alcohol content), but where a washing process is required, where heat may be applied for longer periods of time to create sterile conditions, this can put any lacquer under significant stress, especially if heat is also applied with chemicals.


What is the best lacquer?

The best lacquers are epoxy phenolic or BPA-NI (BPA Non-Intent) lacquers. Anyone dealing with supermarkets or British Retail Consortium (BRC) accredited organisations will have to use the BPA-NI lacquer, as this is a requirement.


What other considerations are there?

The bottle may dent and get scratched during its reuse cycle, so it is important that our customers understand this. What is great, is that aluminium is shatter-proof, so it won’t ever smash or contaminate the contents.


The main messages to our customers are as follows:

  1. Understand your customers, especially regarding their role in washing the bottle. If they are responsible for this, ensure the process is safe, simple, and clearly communicated as part of your scheme.
  2. Conduct thorough testing. For example, if a bottle is expected to be used 100 times, wash it 100 times using your planned method to verify that the lacquer remains intact.
  3. Aluminium bottles are often a robust and suitable choice for refill schemes. It’s important to note that aluminium may acquire some dents and scratches over time.


View our range of Aluminium Bottles.

If you have any questions about this topic or any other query, please contact the team:

+44 1472 240940




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