Some of the world's biggest companies are about to take a huge sustainable step together by offering zero waste packaging. This spring, more than two dozen brands including Procter & Gamble, Nestlé, PepsiCo, Unilever, Clorox, and Danone will test out a new pilot program called Loop. Centered around reusable packaging, the program aims to drastically reduce single-use waste.
Accounced yesterday at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, Loop is the latest innovation from TerraCycle, a New Jersey-based company known for helping consumers tackle hard-to-recycle items like contact lenses, snack wrappers, and toothpaste tubes. Since 2001, TerraCycle has partnered with many brands including Burt's Bees, Brita, Colgate, and Hasbro to create free, mail-in and drop-off recycling programs for consumers.
"We realized that recycling and using recycled content is about trying to do the best you can with waste, but it's not solving the foundational reason we have waste," Tom Szaky, TerraCycle's CEO and co-founder, tells GreenBiz. "We did a lot of reflection on that and realized that the foundational cause of garbage is disposability and single-use. We tried to come up with a way to solve for disposability but maintain the virtues of disposability, which are convenience and affordability."
Nearly 300 products—from Häagen-Dazs ice cream in stainless steel pint containers and Dove's refillable deodorant sticks to Signal's chewable "tooth tabs" as eco-alternatives and conventional toothpaste—will take part in the launch. While more products are still to be announced, you can expect to see green options available from brands like Febreze, Gillette, Pantene, Pampers, and Tide. Loop is set to pilot in France and New York, both homes to some of the world's first zero waste lifestyle and grocery stores.
How exactly will the program work? Think of the old "milk man" model: You order a product, use it up, then leave out the empty containers by your door for someone to pick-up and re-fill in the near future. In this case, consumers will have a special Loop tote to contain empty containers (and distinguish it from other trash) and carriers like UPS will be able to provide pick-up services. Consumers can also drop off empties at participating retailers. Loop eventually plans to roll out in brick-and-mortar stores allowing you to choose reusable packaging while doing the rest of your shopping.
If this sounds like more work, Szaky stresses that it's not: "There's no washing, no cleaning required. Just like a disposable object, you throw it back into one of those durable shipping containers you would've received from us. And when we pick up, you have the option to have it set to auto-replenish, so that you can actually make your shopping even easier, because your empties trigger your re-orders." One day, he even imagines we might have a "reuse bin" alongside—or perhaps in place of!—the rest of our trash and recycling bins.