The company hopes to generalize with reusable packaging


Reusable packaging – from stainless steel ice cream containers to glass soap jars – is set to become more and more common in grocery stores and restaurants around the world.

Loop, a two-year-old company that collects and disinfects reusable containers, said on Wednesday it was growing after successful trials at grocery stores in France and Japan. Kroger and Walgreens in the US, Tesco in the UK and Woolworths in Australia are among Loop’s partner chains to sell essentials in reusable packaging. McDonald’s, Burger King and Tim Hortons also signed.

In total, according to Loop, 191 stores and restaurants around the world will sell products in reusable packaging by the first quarter of 2022, compared to just a dozen stores in Paris at the end of 2020.

Grocery stores will have a special Loop zone, where manufacturers Рfrom independent brands to big players like Nestl̩ Рwill have packaged pantry items, household cleaners and other products in reusable containers. More than 150 manufacturers will participate worldwide by the start of next year, selling 375 products.

Customers pay a deposit – ranging from 15 cents for a bottle of Coca-Cola to $ 10 for a stainless steel container of Clorox wipes – in addition to the price of their item. When customers are done with the container, they can return it to the store and have their deposit refunded through the Loop app. Loop collects the containers, cleans them and sends them back to the manufacturers for filling.

Fast food outlets – including a handful of Burger Kings in New York City, Tim Hortons in Toronto and McDonald’s in the UK – will also distribute and collect reusable sturdy plastic coffee cups and sandwich holders.

Reusable packaging is well developed in other industries, such as the automotive industry, said Cimberly Weir, outreach coordinator and instructor at Michigan State University School of Packaging. But to her knowledge, Loop is the first to try this with consumer products.

“We are responsible for the return of this product,” she said. “So that puts a lot more pressure on ordinary citizens to do their part. “

While Loop’s approach is unique, it is one of many ongoing efforts to eliminate packaging waste. Lego announced last year that it would be removing plastic packaging from its games. Coca-Cola, PepsiCo, and Keurig Dr Pepper have invested millions to improve the recycling and handling of their plastic bottles. Amazon encourages customers to have their items shipped in fewer boxes; the company claims to have eliminated 1 million tonnes of packaging since 2015.

Loop – a division of New Jersey-based recycling company TerraCycle – is actually an old idea, says Tom Szaky, founder and CEO of TerraCycle. Before the 1950s, products were made to last, but they got thinner and cheaper over the following decades, he said.

“We’re reaching the top of this now, and people are fed up with this trend,” Szaky said. “There is a huge attraction to the idea of ​​superior quality and materials. “

That’s true for Chris Critchett, 66, who walked the Loop aisle at a Tesco store in Milton Keynes, England earlier this week.

“I think lemonade bottles were like that when I was younger, so I think it’s a good idea,” Critchett said. “It’s just trying to get people to do it, so they build it into their purchasing system.”

Szaky said the company sees around 80% of returned packaging within 60 days of purchase. In some cases, he said, consumers can just keep the packaging and reuse it themselves.

Szaky said that each country in which Loop operates has a dedicated cleaning facility as well as smaller facilities where packaging can be stored prior to cleaning. He recognizes that transporting all this material has an environmental impact, but he says reusing a container dozens of times is always less harmful than repeatedly extracting material from the earth to make new packaging.

Loop obtains its financing from the fees it charges to its business partners. He is not yet making a profit, Szaky said, but expects to do so within two years.

Keith Daley, head of impact at Kroger, America’s largest grocer, said his company signed with Loop to help meet a multi-year commitment to reduce waste. In October, Kroger will launch a six-month Loop pilot at 25 Fred Meyer stores in the Portland, Oregon area. Dedicated Loop aisles will feature 20 separate items, including some of Kroger’s own products. Loop Ambassadors will explain the program to customers.

“We basically think this is one of those potentially revolutionary ideas,” Daley said.

Loop had hoped to be in 1,000 stores and restaurants by then, but the pandemic has slowed its progress. Still, Szaky said demand for Loop remained even as stores shut down other waste-saving measures like communal bins for pantry staples.

Weir said a major turning point for the packaging industry came in 2006, when Walmart announced it would start rating suppliers on the sustainability of their packaging.

Interest in sustainability has only grown since then, Weir said. She sees it at Michigan State Packing School – the largest in the country – where almost all 600 students cite the environment as a reason for participating in the program.

Matt Casale, the environmental campaign manager for the US Public Interest Research Group, agrees it’s important to bring reusable packaging into the mainstream. But he also wants the company to think more deeply about everything that is made, packaged and shipped.

The PIRG supports laws like the one recently passed in Maine, which impose fees on manufacturers who create packaging that are used to stimulate recycling. It also supports state bans on single-use plastic bags and Styrofoam food containers, which have been passed in Colorado and several other states.

“This will be our 21st century challenge – rethinking the way we do everything, to make sense on a very small planet with a lot of people living there,” Casale said.


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