How in-store tech is supporting retailers’ sustainability goals

Talk of sustainability is rife within the retail sector, especially since COP26. Brands are knuckling down on sustainability messaging, and in many cases technology is being utilised to bring such initiatives to life. 

As Computer Weekly explains, before the pandemic retail tech innovation focused on merging digital and physical assets, delivering frictionless customer journeys, AR experiences and big screens. While these are still very much front of mind for retailers, tech is now increasingly being used to support their green agendas. 

So says retail analyst Miya Knights: “It’s not a fad that will be here today but gone tomorrow […] It’s certainly the new shiny thing, but it’s also a permanent fixture.”

Knights explained how retailers often provide services that fill a gap among local council services, for instance offering collection schemes for hard-to-recycle plastics, which are backed by tech. This tech is both innovative and supports long-term shifts in retailer and shopper behaviour. 

Scan to recycle 

Boots is leading the pack when it comes to scan to recycle schemes. In September it revealed that 700 of its stores would offer a Scan2Recycle service, where shoppers could recycle beauty product packaging and receive loyalty Advantage points in return. 

After registering on the Scan2Recycle app, shoppers simply scan their empty packaging and when they have five products in their virtual basket, use a QR code to deposit the products at an in-store collection point. Advantage points totalling £2.50 are issued for every five products recycled. 

Over half a million empties were taken back during the initiative’s trial period, despite the enduring pandemic and numerous lockdowns that took place during that time. 

“We hypothesised that – because of the reward – it appeals to consumers who wouldn’t traditionally recycle,” noted Alistair Morelli, co-founder of Metrisk, which is running the scheme and built the technology. 

Data is central to the scheme: Boots can learn exactly which brands and items consumers recycle the most, as well as popular locations. 

Aside from beauty, scan to recycle technology is helping supermarkets including Morrisons and Co-up to collect unwanted electrics, helping limit e-waste in the UK. 

QR codes and blockchain 

Digital re-commerce business musicMagpie is another company helping to support more recycling of electricals. 

It will be in 295 Asda stores by 2022, with consumers able to utilise its facilities to get a recycling quote for their mobile, dispose of their device and get a sum of money for it immediately. A trial rolled out across 40 stores proved a great success; musicMagpie took in approximately 3,000 phones in 10 months, paying around £800,000 to customers.

Fellow supermarket giant, Tesco, is playing its part by encouraging shoppers to download the Loop app via QR codes, which grants them access to a reusable grocery packaging scheme. 

Then there’s Costa Coffee, which has rolled out a six-month reusable cup scheme ‘Burt’ – borrow, use, reuse, take-back. Coffee drinkers put down a £5 deposit to access the scheme and receive a metal drinks container. 

Scanning the QR code on the drinks container, customers can pair it with their personal account which is tracked via blockchain technology. When the cup is taken back to a Costa, it’s unlinked from the person’s account and machine washed before being used for the next Burt consumer.

These are just some of the many ways tech is helping to support brands’ sustainability initiatives. No doubt the topic is high on your agenda, too – if you need a little help turning ideas into action, get in touch: