Reusable Packaging Startup Loop Makes Headway On Store Shelves

TerraCycle Colgate Include USA Walgreens Tide Loop Clorox Tropicana Kroger Crest
Tom Szaky First announced in January, Loop recently went live. Loop is the brainchild of Tom Szaky, founder of Trenton, NJ-based recycling pioneer TerraCycle. The latter, which Szaky formed 15 years ago, works with consumer product companies, retailers and others to recycle all manner of stuff, from dirty diapers to cigarette butts. And it teams up with companies to integrate ocean plastic and other hard to recycle waste streams into their products and packaging. Loop—its parent company is TerraCycle—is different. It’s all about creating a circular system, in which containers and other receptacles are reused, rather than disposed of and then recycled. “Recycling is incredibly important,” says Szaky. “But it’s only a short-term solution. It doesn’t solve the root cause.” With that in mind, Loop partners  with retailers, as well as manufacturers, which create new packaging for products—orange juice, laundry detergent, you name it—in durable, reusable metal or glass packaging. Consumers return the containers to a store or arrange for them to be picked up at home after a certain number of uses, depending on the product. (Brands can’t participate unless their packaging can be reused at least 10 times). The 41 brands listed on the Loop web site include everything from Tropicana and Tide to Colgate, Crest and Clorox. Szaky came up with the idea in 2017 and announced the company at the World Economic Forum in Davos in January. It went live in May. Such stores as Kroger and Walgreens on the East Coast and Carrefour in Paris are stocking their shelves with Loop items. Brands create the packaging and, according to Szaky, it takes about a year for them to go from design to manufacturing. Still, according to Szaky, it’s a project brands are perfectly suited to take on. “They’re set up to do this kind of thing,” he says. “When they launch new products, they go through a similar process.” Consumers, who put down a small fully refundable deposit on each purchase, return the items in a special Loop bag when it’s time. (Prices are comparable to non-Loop versions). Loop then sorts and cleans them and returns them to the right brands to refill and start the process again. Szaky says the company is now shipping “under 100 products”, but expects that number to be 300-400 by the end of the year. He’s adding four to five products a week. For now, he expects that stores will mostly approach Loop products as they might organic produce, positioning products in separate sections on shelves. More Loop programs are planned for stores in the UK, Toronto, Tokyo and California.