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SC Johnson Launches Windex Refill, Admits Consumer ‘Hesitation’

SC Johnson has launched a concentrated Windex refill pouch, in a test designed to challenge American consumers’ resistance to such products.

The company says that Windex Mini uses 90 percent less plastic packaging than a traditional 26 fluid ounce spray bottle, and avoids the transport of 22.4 fluid ounces of water, or almost 1.5 pounds by weight.

In launching the refill, SC Johnson acknowledges up front that, according to sales data, U.S. consumers have shown a preference not to refill their household cleaning bottles. “This means stores won’t stock concentrates and companies hesitate to create them,” the company said, in a press release.

The Windex Mini launch is a test to help SC Johnson understand how to motivate consumers and retailers to buy and stock refills, the company says.

“By conservative estimates, a flexible pouch saves six times as much plastic waste that goes into a landfill compared to a traditional bottle,” said chairman and CEO Fisk 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.”

The trigger bottle for Windex Original glass cleaner is already produced with 50 percent post consumer recycled content, the company noted. But if just 20 percent of the 21 million bottles of Windex Original sold each year were refilled, this could save 350,000 pounds of plastic, avoid using 175,000 pounds of virgin plastic and avoid transporting 6 million pounds of water.

SC Johnson says the launch is the culmination of a go-to-market plan that saw the company push to get the pouches to consumers in under 15 weeks. The pouches will be sold in three-packs directly from SC Johnson at www.scjgreenerchoices.com, where consumers can also post comments and critiques.

The website also includes tips on easy, environment-friendly choices, FAQs from SC Johnson about its own green practices, and a carbon calculator created in partnership with Conservation International (CI).

“We want to create an open dialogue and get feedback from consumers once they give Windex Mini concentrated refill pouch a try,” said 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.”

Last week SC Johnson announced that it has achieved its greenhouse gas reduction goal set through the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Climate Leaders program.

A number of major cleaning product companies have been making efforts to improve their product packaging. Last September Procter & Gamble announced plans to convert its entire U.S. and Canadian portfolio of powder laundry detergents to a new compacted formula.

Method tied for Best in Show at the Industrial Designers Society of America awards, for a new laundry detergent product that is eight times more concentrated than normal strength detergent.

And in March, Seventh Generation introduced a new liquid laundry detergent bottle made from 100 percent recycled cardboard and newspaper.

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15 thoughts on “SC Johnson Launches Windex Refill, Admits Consumer ‘Hesitation’

  1. Those pouches aren’t recyclable. Yes, they probably are based on content, but most sorting machines (especially in single stream programs which is rapidly becoming the norm) are going to pick that up as paper and send it to the mills, further degrading the quality of US paper. Thanks SC, thanks alot…NOT!!

  2. If you build it, they will come. This is bold insipiring committment. I really hope that the consumer begins to respond positively.

  3. If we are going to use products. It makes perfect sense to refill a bottle which does not carry a possibility of contamination. The bottle is fine why throw it away? I do it all of the time consciously…

  4. Great effort on the part of SC – I for one recognize the cost of shipping water both economically and environmentally. A 3 pack of concentrate, premeasured for the windex spray bottle is brilliant! In response to the sarcasm of Greenpro’s comment – if our parents did not applaud our small baby steps then we would have never learned to run. Stop looking for the 100% solution – instead encourage progress and allow momentum to build.

  5. If only people weren’t so darn lazy. The primary concern is whether customers will want to “refill” their containers. Ewww…touching a lid, pouring something, adding water…EWWWW… People are our greatest challenge to being green. People will always be the problem as long as they put perception ahead of reality.

  6. Bigger question than pouches – is Windex a healthy, environmentally safe chemical to use in the first place? Or should consumers instead be purchasing glass cleaner that derives from natural, plant-based ingredients? There are many safer naturally-derived alternatives.

  7. Greenpro – I would have thought the optical sorters used on a single stream line would be able to differentiate the pouch from paper and send it to the plastic mixed bale line. Can anybody confirm??

  8. Good question Paul, at our plant the optical sorters are only used on the plastics line. The paper is sorted out at the front of the line, cardboard first, newspaper and mixed paper after that.

    A star screen is a series of shafts arranged on an incline and fitted with rotating cams shaped like stars. The soft paper is propelled forward, while the more rigid beverage containers and cardboard fall backwards (due to the incline) through the openings between the shafts.
    Over 90 percent of the paper is removed mechanically by the star screens, with the remainder, along with any contaminants, removed by manual sorters. Since paper isn’t sorted optically, there hasn’t been a need to put optical sorters on that portion of the line. I don’t kow of any plant in the US that has an up front optical sorter.

  9. Oops, meant to say that we use star screens at the front of the line and then go on to explain what a star screen is.

  10. Let me get this straight: consumer testing showed that people don’t want concentrated cleaners – yet they’re proceding with this anyway?
    Bawwaaaahhhaaa LMAO! I see major flop.

    I bet they’ve spent MILLIONs to develop this; they should have sent the money to the starving kids in Africa.

  11. Didn’t Arm & Hammer try this a couple of years ago? It failed miserably.

    SCJ needs to get rid of the old guard & bring in new blood. They’re stuck in a time warp.

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