Packaged-goods makers have long figured that consumers value convenience more than the environment. So sturdy plastic bottles rule store shelves, though it would save landfill space to buy just one bottle, then refill it from containers that consume less material. This is catching on in Canada and Europe, and the U.S. may be next.
Procter & Gamble Co. brought out a milk-carton-style refill for Downy fabric softener in 1990. And now, L&F Products, a unit of Eastman Kodak Co. and the maker of Lysol, is going further. In October, it will launch a flexible-pouch container for its Direct multipurpose cleaner and Resolve carpet cleaner. Called a Smart Pack, the squishy but strong package has a flat bottom that lets it stand on shelves, plus a small spout so it can easily refill plastic bottles. Smart Packs contain 75% less plastic than bottles the same size and sell for up to 19% less. They aren't recyclable, though, as are most plastic bottles. In fact, some P&G bottles are now 100% recycled plastic.