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SC Johnson hopes to catalyze move toward refillables with Windex Mini

SC Johnson commits to leading change toward refillable concentrate products for household cleaning with the introduction of a flexible pouch-packed concentrate.
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SC Johnson has launched Windex® Mini, a concentrated refill pouch that the company says uses 90% less plastic packaging than a traditional 26-oz trigger bottle. Notes SC Johnson, concentrates use less packaging, decrease shipping impacts, and reduce waste that ends up in landfills. Yet sales data shows U.S. consumers prefer not to refill their household cleaning bottles. This means stores won't stock concentrates, and companies hesitate to create them. With this test, SC Johnson says it wants to understand how to motivate consumers and retailers to consider trading up from traditional cleaning methods to a greener choice.

“By conservative estimates, a flexible pouch saves six times as much plastic waste that goes into a landfill compared to a traditional bottle,” says Fisk Johnson, chairman and CEO of SC Johnson. “Refilling with a concentrate is an example of a very small behavior change that could make a real difference in minimizing waste. But many people don't want the inconvenience. We want to crack the code and figure out what it would take to make concentrated refills an accepted—even demanded—choice.”

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The Windex Mini concentrated refill pouch launch comes on the heels of Johnson’s speech at the 2011 Fortune Brainstorm Green conference in April. He spoke about the challenge of getting U.S. consumers to adopt concentrates, and his remarks received an enthusiastic response, the company reports. Thus began a go-to-market plan to get Windex Mini concentrated refill pouches into the hands of U.S. consumers in less than 15 weeks.

“The environment isn’t top of mind in most consumer purchases right now, but it needs to be if we’re going to address some of the challenges that future generations could face,” Johnson says. “What we try to do at SC Johnson is get product choices out there that work well and also have a better environmental profile than the ones that came before them.”

The Windex Mini concentrated refill pouch requires just three usage steps: cut, pour, and add water. Consumers can refill a clean, single 26-oz Windex bottle with cleaner. The product is being sold online directly by SC Johnson in three-packs of “snip ‘n’ pour” pouches.

With the Windex Mini concentrated refill pouch, SC Johnson says that it hopes to gain valuable insight into how Americans use concentrated cleaning products. “We want to create an open dialogue and get feedback from consumers once they give Windex Mini concentrated refill pouch a try,” says Kelly M. Semrau, senior vice president of Global Corporate Affairs, Communication & Sustainability. “We know this initial test won’t be perfect, but to create real change we need to hear what consumers want and need, and learn as we go.”

The company invites Windex Mini concentrated refill pouch purchasers to post comments and critiques about their experience with the product on the company’s Greener Choices Web site.

Move to refill can result in big benefits

The trigger bottle for Windex Original glass cleaner is produced with 50% post-consumer recycled content, relates SC Johnson. Therefore, choosing to refill with one Windex Mini concentrated refill pouch results in 90 % less plastic packaging than a 26-oz trigger bottle—enough to make 6.5 ballpoint pens—and avoids transporting 22.4 oz of water, or nearly 1.5 lb by weight.

SC Johnson says that if it can prove that concentrates will sell, and can convince retailers to stock them, it could make an even bigger impact. People buy approximately 21 million bottles of Windex Original glass cleaner each year. If just 20% of those were refilled, each year it could:

• Save 350,000 lb of plastic—that's 26 million ballpoint pens

• Avoid using 175,000 lb of virgin plastic—that's 3 million soda bottles

• Avoid transporting 735,000 gal of water—that's more than 6 million lb by weight

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