Tesco and French supermarket Carrefour will trial a new, global online shopping service based on refillable rather than recyclable containers.

Empty product containers are collected, cleaned and refilled for reuse.

If successful, the firms say the scheme could mean lower prices for shoppers.

The system will first be trialled in Paris by Carrefour in the spring, as well as in a separate trial in the US and subsequently by Tesco later in the year.

Unveiled at the World Economic Forum in Davos, initially a limited number of items such as toiletries, ice-cream and breakfast cereals will be available to testers who sign up to the trial.

Testing of the scheme – called Loop – is gradually expected to expand globally. If successful, the number of products available will also increase and eventually be stocked in stores.

Typically, shoppers will pay a small deposit for a product’s container which will be refunded when it’s returned.

While the idea of refillable vessels hardly seems revolutionary, until now the environmental focus has largely been on trying to make sure materials are recyclable rather than reusable.

“It’s a good thing to recycle, but now the idea is to eliminate unnecessary waste before it happens,” said Carrefour general secretary Laurent Vallée

The supermarket chain already allows shoppers to bring their own refillable containers for a limited range of products such as rice and pasta in some of its French stores.

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