If you are keyed into recent developments in the renewability and eco-sustainability sphere, you may have heard whispers about a new initiative known as Loop; a new zero-waste platform comprised of a coalition of a handful of major companies that could drastically reduce the amount of harm our plastic production is wreaking on our oceans. While there are plenty of rumors and a great deal of buzz surrounding this initiative, many are not clear as to what Loop actually is and what it could mean for the future of our planet.
In essence, Loop is a new initiative that has set out to progress recycling a step further and truly create a system of plastic reuse. Loop sends its customers brand name products such as Haagen Daas ice cream, Tide Detergent or Crest mouthwash right to their door, packaged in specialty containers that can be reused for future customers. Once the product is finished, the consumer sends the sustainable container back to Loop where an exhaustive sanitization process is performed, readying the container for reuse with the next customer.
Loop is the brainchild of Tom Scazky, the CEO and co-founder of Terra Cycle; a company that has made its mark in innovating the sustainability field and discovering methods for reusing hard to recycle products. “To us, the root cause of waste is not plastic, per se, it’s using things once, and that’s really what Loop is trying to change as much as possible.”
Many are comparing Loop’s waste reduction process to the olden days of the “milkman,” fundamentally shifting ownership of packaging back to the companies and away from the consumer.
The practical application goes as such. When consumers order their product; deodorant, ice cream, etc. you pay a deposit and then the product is sent directly in a reusable tote specifically engineered by UPS to withstand multiple trips. After using your products, you then replace them back into the reusable tote, and when the tote is full, you simply request a pickup, or you can send it back yourself from any UPS. The process is designed to be seamless, easy, and require as little hassle from the consumer as possible.
The issue, as with most sustainable endeavors, is these products often find themselves overwhelmed by the convenience and affordability of cheap, standard plastic application and never reach a significant enough market shares to build momentum. That’s why Loop is setting out to make the process as streamlined and straightforward as possible. In fact, the Loop procedure is even easier than recycling as the consumer is not required to rinse out or clean the container. That responsibility is delegated to the companies, not the consumer.
The Loop initiative is also breeding some impressive side results outside of their primary focus. Now that companies have returned to a model of owning their packaging, containers are no longer seen as a liability but rather an asset of the owner. Now companies are no longer seeking to manufacture the cheapest packaging possible, but rather are considering their containers as an extension of their brand power, marketing, and capital.
Some companies are seeing this extend a step forward as the initiate is inspiring improvements in the product itself. Toothpaste containers, for instance, are quite difficult to reuse, so Unilever is investing in developing a chewable toothpaste tablet that can be stored in a reusable container; a groundbreaking innovation not only to the company’s sustainability practices but to the product itself.
Ultimately, Loop represents a seismic shift in the way we think about corporations, packaging, and sustainability. The fact that the initiative has been adopted by a large number of major brands rather than only small niche brands that specifically target green-minded consumers should inspire confidence in the chances for Loop’s success.
The pilot program is currently only available in New York City and Paris, but plans for expansion are well underway.