This Startup Is Building A Closed Loop System: A Future Where Shopping Is Zero-Waste

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We have all heard the age-old story of the milkman — the epitome of convenience before the invention of the refrigerator. Fresh milk was delivered right to your door and the empty bottles would be whisked away. While this seems to be a way of the past, what if this technique was resurrected with our products today? (A closed loop system, if you will.) Meet Loop, a startup focused on creating a platform for helping consumers live zero-waste lifestyles, is doing just that. Operating under recycling company Terracycle, Loop’s thesis is that product packaging is the killer when it comes to how the buying process contributes to waste. To learn more about what Loop is working on, I spoke with Ben Weir, the company’s Business Development Manager. In our conversation, we talked about the statistics that motivate the company’s work, what it’s doing, and the sustainable future of shopping the company is betting on.

Loop’s (Sustainable) Vision of the Future

Imagine a ‘milkman’ scenario where a vendor delivers a product to you and once you’re done using it, someone comes by to pick up, clean, and refill the empty container for the cycle to repeat once again. This process is what Weir calls a ‘closed loop system’ — and it’s what Loop is betting big bucks on. Some of Loop's products. Photo Credit: Mark Kauzlarich/CNN Some of Loop’s products. Photo Credit: Mark Kauzlarich/CNN Partnering with some of the largest household companies such as Tide, Pantene, and Häagen-Dazs, Loop offers popular products in reusable containers. Highly durable and sustainable materials, such as stainless steel, aluminum, and glass, are used to redesign well-known products in a design-conscious manner. Plus, the packaging has a minimum threshold of ten reuse cycles.

The Numbers: What a Closed Loop System Could Accomplish

Weir emphasizes that Loop strives to be durable, cleanable, and circular (reusable) with its packaging. After these ten cycles, Loop has a 35% lower environmental impact compared to regular eCommerce. The startup also optimizes its supply chain to make it as sustainable as possible by sourcing locally whenever possible. Every year, approximately 300 million tons of plastic are produced with 50% of it coming from single-use plastic. Avoiding a ‘disposable lifestyle’ is what Loop aims to do by promoting zero-waste alternatives.

How Loop Develops its Partnerships and Customer Relationships

Loop has approximately 100 employees globally, making it a relatively small company in the industry. But it is a subsidiary of the Terracycle brand, which has been around for some 20 years. And that has helped the company collaborate with over 150 brands to date. To make partnering with those brands an enticing possibility, Loop’s process benefits manufacturers by promoting product innovation and creating a halo effect around the brand. Nestle designed reusable containers for Loop. Photo Credit: Brinson and Banks (CNN) Nestle designed reusable containers for Loop. Photo Credit: Brinson and Banks (CNN) At the same time, Loop provides consumers an assortment of products, which has helped the company expand into more market sectors. And by refining its packaging and design quality, the startup wants to convince consumers who aren’t typically big on sustainability to come aboard.

Building a Truly Closed Loop System Will Take Collaboration

Ever since announcing its intentions at World Economic Form in 2019, Loop has been on a mission to reform how society views shopping. In fact, this small company has big goals to expand and shift global perspectives. Over the next 12 months, Loop plans to expand to eight new geographic markets, including regions in Asia, Australia, and Canada. In the near future, there are plans to launch integrated eCommerce in France over the next month. Additionally, Loop looks to focus on more brick and mortar implementation on the West Coast. It would be difficult to do all that alone. By aiming to create an omnichannel approach with retail partners, Loop highlights its dedication to integration. The company hopes to expand in all aspects possible — including more accessible products, drop-off locations, and partners.

Loop’s Bet Doesn’t Come Without Market Risk

Proposing such a large manufacturing change to corporations doesn’t come without resistance. In general, many product producers are moving towards using less packaging with lighter weight. So although the idea of reusable packaging is gaining popularity, it does not always provide the convenience that consumers desire. But that’s where Loop’s bet comes in. It’s not an execution risk — it’s a market risk. The stakes? Loop fails if customers and manufacturers don’t believe this model works. On the contrary, if the model does work, the company could be an early player in a huge market. Image: Loop customers. Photo Credit: Loop It sounds like Loop’s primary goal is to shift responsibility and ownership back to the manufacturer. Instead of depending on consumers being environmentally-conscious, Loop thinks offering incentives for manufacturers can be more effective.