Posts with term Häagen-Dazs X

Trend Report 2020: Material Innovation

2020 is finally here, and it's that time of year where we get to play Nostradamus and tell you where the future of branding and package design is heading.  This is the final installment in our 9-part Trend Report for 2020; to view the other sections, click on the following hyperlinks to read about  Brand Merch', The Rise of Non-Alcoholic BoozeWhite Claw SummerMonochromatic PackagingPatterns, The Plant-Based WorldNon-Binary Branding, and Flexible Logos.
Cactus juiceMushroomsOrange peelsSeaweedBambooLobster shellsCorkBanana leaves and leatherWoodAlgaeAvocado pitsFruit and vegetable peels from apples and potatoes. Wetland weed. That off-putting UFO-like disc used in kombucha called a SCOBY. No, it’s not some weird salad your crystal-wearing Aunt who lives in Joshua Tree brought to Thanksgiving this year, we’re talking about new packaging substrates that can replace plastic—we’re talking about material innovation.  
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  For the last few years, there’s been no bigger story in the packaging industry than the single-use plastic crisis. We’re past alarm bells about plastic straws and the major-brand-punted waste goals of 2025, as well as the fatigue that comes with seeing a daily news story about how we’re either still polluting the oceans or when climate change will finally do us in.  
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  Because at some point, you have to innovate yourself out of the situation, and that’s just what a lot of folks are trying to do. Now, the designer mantra is less pearl-clutching, more doing. You’ll find designers sick of an endless carousel of plastics that don’t break down, looking for not only newfound inspiration but real, viable solutions.  
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  Most plastic will not get recycled. It’s the truth. Our current system is overburdened, and packaging with flexible plastic or mixed materials will likely never make it through a recycling facility and will go straight to landfill or get burned. So you’ll find scientists and researchers like Sandra Pascoe Ortiz developing new materials by juicing cactus leaves. The sugars and gum contained in cactus juice make it a natural polymer, one that’s not only edible but biodegradable and will break down within 2-3 months if buried in soil, and significantly less if you compost it.  
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  There are some materials that we can readily access from the ocean too—seaweed is simple to harvest, and it grows up to 30 times faster than conventional crops, plus it eats carbon. Evoware, the Circular Design Challenge winner, is seaweed-based packaging that can get applied in food sachets, personal care products, and medical supplies.  
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  If you brand it beautifully and talk up the material’s seemingly unlimited potential, as Julia Marsh did with her thesis-turned-design-studio-and-flexible-packaging start-up Sway, you can captivate others with its regenerative possibilities. “Inspired...by the benevolent nature of seaweed,” this isn’t the green and brown-hued environmental activism we’ve grown accustomed to over the years. It transforms what typically gets viewed as a nuisance that washes up on the beach into something majestic, something that's always been a part of the natural world that undulates and, yes, sways, essentially rebranding it.  
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  In some cases, the product can even become the packaging, because why design graphics when you can make the packaging a beautiful centerpiece? Designer mi Zhu created Soapack, sustainable toiletry products made from a vegetable oil-based soap. As we wrote last July, “The variations in color come from natural dying pigments found in minerals, plants, and flowers. From there, each bottle is formed in a mold and then coated with a thin layer of beeswax to waterproof them.”  
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  You can also make your packaging fun. Get rid of the plastic wrapper like Kit-Kat did for the Japanese market and use origami paper (OK, we’re biased because it’s a shout-out for the packaging nerds, but still). Creating something that lives outside of its primary use can create a pure moment of joy, transforming a mundane wrapper into something delightful.  
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  And if we want to talk about revolutionary materials, then we need to consider PHA, otherwise known as polyhydroxyalkanoates. You can find this natural polyester made from bacterial fermentation in the as-of-yet-but-soonish bottled water brand Cove. Aside from fully breaking down in compost or landfill, it also considered marine-degradable, meaning that if you happened to be an awful person and wanted to throw the bottle away in the ocean, it would thoroughly degrade (seriously though, don’t do that).  
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  And while we want everyone to get excited about mushrooms and banana leaves, we’d be remiss if we didn’t mention some of the highly recyclable substrates brands know and love like aluminum and glass, and specifically with how Loop is using them to create refillable packaging.  
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  Created by TerraCycle, Loop is a back-to-basics solution where you shop for some of your favorite brands like Häagen-Dazs ice cream or Hellmann’s Mayonaise, and it ships to you in a refillable vessel that you pay a deposit for. Once finished, you return the container to TerraCycle so it can be cleaned and reused.  
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  Brands are genuinely excited about Loop, and while no one is exactly sure whether or not it’s going to work on a long-term basis, it does present consumers with an entirely new way to interact with the products they can consume, it’s one that gives them a nostalgic taste of yesteryear (bringing back the milkman they claim), that ties into having an immediate effect on wasteful packaging. Designers and brands are free to create reusable packaging that’s not only environmentally friendly but beautiful and near-permanent.  
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  So while plastic isn’t going away in the immediate future, there are plenty of new options for brands and packaging designers to play with. And while scalability might seem damn near impossible, it’s a marathon, not a 50-yard dash to a plastic-free grocery store, though we might be getting pretty close to that too. Exciting times indeed.  
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Less than a year in, Terracycle's Loop is already changing the game

loop Less than a year ago, I told you about Loop, the company launched by Trenton-based Terracycle. Basically, Loop is seeking to completely change the way Americans purchase and use disposable containers. The change is dramatic; if Loop gets its way, all containers will be reusable. Basically, the company is taking the old milkman model and applying to everything, from Haagan Dazs ice cream to Clorox Wipes. Instead of buying those products and throwing away the container when you’re done, Loop sends you the products in branded stainless steel packaging, and when you’re done, you send it back. Zero waste. “We’re stopping and thinking and saying that even if 100 percent of products and packaging were recyclable, and even if 100 percent of products are made from recycled content, is that still the best?” Anthony Rossi, the vice-president of Global Business Development at Loop, told me for the original article. “Two years ago Tom (Szaky, Terracycle founder and CEO) got to thinking and said ‘no, we can’t stop there.’ One, it’s utopian. I don’t think we’ll ever get close to that number, but two the real problem here is disposability. And so we’re attacking disposability by working with partners to reengineer their packaging to be durable and reusable while providing infrastructure to get products to consumers and back.” OK. That was about 10 months ago. Today? “Time” has named Loop one of the 100 best inventions of 2019, 5,000 people are using LoopStore.com to do tons of their shopping, and another 85,000 are on the waiting list to get into Loop’s pilot program. I’d say so far, so … really freaking fantastic. “It’s rethinking trash,” said Donna Liu, a Princeton resident who is a Loop customer. “And it’s easy to use. Honestly, in the beginning, I was a little bit puzzled as to when you order, how do you time it. But it’s much simpler than I thought it would be. You schedule your order online and it comes within a day a two.” Liu said she orders about once a month, with the order including many of the typical grocery store purchases. “Personal care products, shampoo, conditioner, cleaning products, some foods, snacks, dried grains, rice, quinoa, cashews … I just kind of browse their store, look at the things I’d be using anyway, and order it,” Liu said. Granted, Liu admits it is slightly more expensive to order through Loop, but she sees it as a long-term investment that will pay off down the road. “I call it the ‘green margin,’ Liu said. “It’s the cost of not generating more trash, it’s the cost of not adding to the environment’s problems.” And that’s, obviously, the whole reason Loop exists. To create a system in which our purchases don’t add to the problem. And really: Even if you’re a staunch anti-environmentalist, there’s no downside to Loop’s model becoming the dominant force in the industry. And it could certainly happen, and might even happen sooner that anyone dare hope. “At launch, we were in the early phase of the pilot and since May, we have added over 120 products and have doubled our coverage in the United States, adding six new states,” said Eric Rosen, the publicist for Loop/Terracycle. “We have also recently announced committed retail partners in the UK (Tesco), Canada (Loblaws), and Australia (Woolworths). We are also beginning to engage in scale-up conversations with our U.S. retail partners and planning for how we will bring the Loop platform into retailers’ e-commerce platforms and brick-and-mortar stores. And in 2020, you can expect Loop to be available in Canada, the UK, Germany and Japan. And we anticipate being in-store in select locations in the United States.” It would not surprise me one bit if we blinked ourselves to 2030 and saw that Loop has very legitimately changed the way the world’s system of product packaging. Trenton makes, the world reuses.

Coming Full Circle: Sustainable Retail In A Post-Recycling Age

In 2020, Colgate-Palmolive will finally deliver a recyclable toothpaste container. After more than two decades of mounting concern around plastic waste and discussions about sustainable initiatives, the 213-year-old company announced it would release a fully recyclable tube under its Tom's of Main brand, with plans to convert all products to 100% recyclable packaging by 2025: “Building a future to smile about means finding new packaging solutions that are better for the planet, but until now there hasn’t been a way to make toothpaste tubes part of the recycling stream,” said Justin Skala, Chief Growth & Strategy Officer for Colgate-Palmolive, in a statement.   But is this move by Colgate too little, too late? By 2025, the focus of corporate sustainability will have shifted, evolving from the use of recyclable materials to creating circular business strategies.   While Colgate pottered with laboratory testing, the recycling market collapsed. The exchange rate between the U.S. and China made a lot of recycling unprofitable, leading a number of municipalities to stop their recycling collection altogether. With the collapse of the international market, cities like Philadelphia have had to turn to burning much of their recyclable waste.   Compounding this problem is the fact that the majority of recyclable plastics doesn’t get recycled anyway. Only 9% of plastic packaging in the U.S. is recycled, 12% is burned and the rest ends up in a landfill—or even the sea. And while Adidas creates sneakers out of Pacific Ocean plastic and Walmart’s Asda uses similar debris to pave a parking lot, these programs are just delaying the inevitable: society ultimately has to deal with that plastic when it turns up in the waste system again.   What use is a new tee made from a mix of upcycled cotton and recycled fishing nets anyway when the used product needs to be processed again? Maybe we need to stop differentiating ‘single-use' from ‘recyclable' and come to the conclusion that nearly all plastic is used once. If we can grasp this notion, then we might be able to judge how corporations offload the responsibility to efficiently recycle on our local governments, which could seem an unfair and undue burden on them and our taxes.   Some retailers are already taking matters into their own hands. “We’re working with our suppliers and packaging manufacturers, looking at alternatives to plastics,” says Karen Graley, packaging manager at U.K. grocer Waitrose,” while the CEO of REI co-op explains, “We are in the throes of an environmental crisis that threatens not only the next 81 years of REI, but the incredible outdoor places that we love.” His recent call-to-action letter reads, “Climate change is the greatest existential threat facing our co-op. I believe we do not have the luxury of calling climate change a political issue. This is a human issue. And we must act now.”   When our researchers at PSFK studied hundreds of new ideas and signals developing within the sustainability space, we identified several emerging short- and long-term trends. Over the next 12-24 months, the focus for corporate sustainability programs dealing with product waste is likely to be what is defined as the Circular Economy. Beyond that, we spotted trends around new ways to avoid waste and inefficiencies. In this article, we explore the former set of trends and share them in a framework to help you as a business executive or even a consumer to consider how to approach sustainability.   No doubt, you’ve already read stories and reports on the Circular Economy, a concept around a cycle where we keep resources in use for as long as possible, extract the maximum value from those resources while in use, then recover and regenerate those resources at the end of their lives. By conducting pattern recognition on the latest ideas developing within this space, we identified a number of key pillars: receive, recycle, repair, refill, rent and resell. As corporations look to evolve their sustainability efforts, these six themes will guide them in developing a more holistic strategy. First we define the pillars, then explore what they look like in practice.   1. Receiving Receiving involves retailers and brands facilitating the simple return of their products and packaging at the end of what their owner thinks is their useful life. Sometimes this collection happens in the store, but at other times this gathering of used product may be more proactive. These materials are used to make new products, passed to external facilities to recycle, or end up in a landfill—which is currently the most likely result.   2. Recycling Building off of the notion of receiving, recycling concerns the reuse of materials as new products that the retailer and brand can leverage as part of their commercial business. The passing on of consumed materials to an external recycling facility or partner is not a part of this strategy.   3. Repairing Repairing involves fixing or upcycling product so that it either has a longer life or can be sold as new. This pillar includes both the servicing of products owned by customers and the repair of previously owned items.   4. Reselling Reselling concerns the creation of marketplaces that allow retailers or consumers to sell previously owned products.   5. Refilling Refilling is a system of avoiding packaging by expecting consumers to replenish the core product with their own reusable vessel. This creates efficiencies in production (mainly, bulk orders) and improves the frequency of brand-consumer interaction.   6. Renting Renting is the short-term loan of products so that they can be reused by different consumers. The items are therefore more frequently employed and not left in storage, plus there is less demand for virgin product. Pillars defined, now let’s take a closer look at how this framework for sustainability can manifest in business:


When it comes to the ways retailers and brands are facilitating the simple return of their products and packaging, there are several tactics. Sometimes stores choose simplicity and accept returns on premise. For example, U.K. grocer Sainsbury’s is planning to accept milk and glass soda bottles as part of a drive to halve the amount of plastic packaging it uses over the next six years. Department store John Lewis is also now taking back beauty packaging, which is traditionally hard to recycle. Levi Strauss has a take-back program that sells wares to a third-party who transforms old denim into insulation for community buildings.   But how effective is that drop box by the store door? It assumes consumers will remember to carry their products into a store—when on most trips, they still forget their reusable grocery bags. Some firms are therefore incentivizing the returns: Patagonia will accept any good-condition product that is not a “next-to-skin garment” and provide a gift card for up to $100. Similarly, Canadian outdoor clothing company Arc’teryx has a new program called Rock Solid Used Gear that incentivizes customers to bring their lightly used products back to the store in exchange for a gift card valued at 20% of the item’s original retail price. IKEA Canada also allows customers to “sell back” their gently used furniture to the store and receive store credit. Adidas has a new system in the U.K. called Infinite Play that lets consumers return any branded products purchased within the past five years in exchange for a gift card and loyalty points.       Meanwhile, some companies aren’t just waiting for the shoppers to turn up; they’re going out to get their used product: H&M ran a test earlier this year in New York where it offered Lyft rides to the store for shoppers planning to deliver used product and John Lewis is sending trucks out to collect larger items in the U.K. Vogue Business says that “at a time when brands are finding it increasingly expensive to attract and retain customers, take-back programs are a way to stand out.”


Receiving product doesn’t necessarily imply the recycling and regeneration of materials into new products for the retailer and brand to use in commercial business. There are companies developing enterprise-level strategies when it comes to the pre-recycling stage: For instance, H&M picks up clothing and shoes in more than 60 countries and sells some of the materials back to the companies who made the original clothes. The actual reprocessing of the materials into new product is burdened with challenges, not the least of which is the presence of potentially harmful constituents: The fabric from a used pair of jeans could contain formaldehyde, carcinogenic dyes, toxic heavy metals and more, which poses problem for enterprises looking to avoid including an unknown assortment of nefarious chemicals in the next generation of product. One solution to this issue is implementing new recycling processes: a startup called Evrnu breaks down used fabric into constituent molecules, enabling the isolation of any unwanted materials as well as desired ones, like pure cellulose, for repurposing.


While used items often get shredded and returned as raw ingredients for the product, some companies are fixing, or upcycling, product so that it either has a longer life or can be sold as new.   Luxury U.K. department store Harvey Nichols now has an after-care service called The Restory that offers not only to repair and restore premium items but even “reimagine” them.  After years of criticism, Apple is finally shipping official parts to repair shops that have had to use third-party materials in the past.   Atelier & Repairs is a boutique fashion label that specializes in the remaking of old and used products. Brands like Gap and Deckers have collaborated with them to explore the repair of old hoodies and jeans to create fresh fashion that’s not made of virgin stock. At the announcement of the Gap collaboration, the brand’s Head of Adult Design, John Caruso, told reporters that the partnership with Atelier & Repairs allowed the company to reinterpret and “reimagine their classic styles, lengthening the traditional product life cycle.” California-based b-corp Dhana takes this remake concept further by upcycling a customer’s memories into a new outdoor coat, including their concert tees, Comic-Con costumes and other memorabilia into the lining.   Patagonia seems to be one of the most progressive brands in the repair and remake space, reportedly fixing 100,000 items each year in 72 repair centers globally. Some of these items are now appearing on the site of its sub-brand WornWear, which has an online presence and recently opened its first store in Denver, Colorado. WornWear doesn’t just repair and resell items: the designers also reimagine them by mixing pieces from recycled products they have. Vogue Business reports that the new line doesn’t cannibalize existing sales, but “brings in customers who are, on average, ten years younger than the typical Patagonia shopper.”      


As products get returned, repaired or remade, we’re witnessing the creation of marketplaces that allow retailers or consumers to sell previously owned products. German online fashion retailer Zalando has been testing a second-hand store concept for women's fashion items called Zircle. The store sells used fashion items that were purchased back from customers on their Zalando Wardrobe app. One objective of the test is to understand if the company can reach new customers.   Premium U.K. department store Selfridges has been working with third parties like Vestiaire and Depop to develop shop-in-shops that resell shoppers' apparel. The Vestiaire Collective space also comes with a resale point where customers can deposit items that subsequently appear on the brand’s app for sale.   Online retail platform Farfetch recently launched Second Life, a pilot initiative that allows consumers to resell the designer bags sitting in their wardrobe. “We're on a mission to become the global platform for good in luxury fashion—empowering everyone to think, act and choose positively,” reads their site. “Services like Farfetch Second Life help our customers extend the life of the clothes they buy.”   Meanwhile, with every new purchase, fashion brand Cuyana is including a shipping label that helps consumers send unwanted clothes to reseller thredUP, who will in turn send coupons for every successful resale. “Young shoppers like pre-owned goods for their lower prices and ability to express concern for causes like sustainability,” says fashion editor Lucy McGuire. Research commissioned by thredUP reports that the total secondhand apparel market will reach $51 billion in the next 5 years and will be larger than Fast Fashion in 10 Years.


Retailers and service providers are also providing more ways to refill and restock certain products. U.K. grocer Waitrose has launched trials of its Unpacked system to gauge shoppers’ reactions to packaging-free food and drink options including the use of refills. They encourage shoppers to not only bring along reusable shopping bags but also their containers for filling up with the products during their Unpacked shop. The containers can be any material, size, shape or weight, but if shoppers don’t have anything to hand at home, they're welcome to buy bags/containers in store. Waitrose even encourages customers to bring their own coffee cup to enjoy a brew in the aisles.         In London, The Body Shop now offers a product refill station, while at Bleach London shoppers can buy glass bottles filled with their favorite shampoo and conditioner, then return for refills. To track the growing number of zero-waste/refill stores in the U.K. capital, an advertising agency created the Useless London online map.   On U.S. college campuses, rather than selling new bottles of water, The Coca-Cola Company has been trialling PureFill refill stations. In Sydney, the vegan online retailer Flora&Fauna has a new brick-and-mortar store that offers refills of zero-waste goods.   NYC's fast-casual chain Dig is testing a closed-loop dishware program where restaurant goers receive a reusable bowl and lid with the expectation that they return with it every time they visit the brand's Washington Square Park outpost.   Similar to a pattern observed with receiving, this refill service is not only taking place in the store, but also in the home. Terracycle has been a pioneer in the recycling movement: its Loop system delivers everything in a returnable container. Brands like P&G and retailers like Krueger have partnered with Loop, now letting shoppers enjoy an array of package-free products, including Crest oral rinse, Tide laundry detergent and even Haaen Dazs ice-cream. “The response has been overwhelmingly positive. It's phenomenal how many people have signed up for it,” said Loop co-founder Tom Skazy to PSFK. “Consumers understand that there's a garbage problem. While some prioritize the environmental aspect, others really like the design aspect, and some really like the convenience aspect. When you put all that together, it's a pretty big ecosystem of benefits.”


And finally, brands are also exploring the short-term loan of products so that they can be reused by different consumers. Some of this has been pioneered in the luxury fashion space for a few years now (think services like Rent the Runway), but there are signs of more mainstream options. H&M, for example, has launched its first clothing rental service at a newly refurbished store in Stockholm, following similar efforts by Banana RepublicUrban Outfitters and Ann Taylor Loft. Levi’s is exploring the space through a partnership with Rent The Runway. “For this crowd, consignment sites like thredUP and Poshmark, as well as the rental services, offer a lower-cost way to keep the ‘Gram fresh without hoarding clothes,” writes Ankita Rao in an article entitled ‘Clothes Are Canceled’ on Vice.com.   Rental goes well beyond apparel—IKEA is renting furniture, Lego has the service Netbricks for the rental of its little plastic building blocks—but fashion is where the groundswell is. According to research by GlobalData, the U.S. garment rental market was worth $1 billion in 2018, less than 1% of the total apparel market, but it also grew 24% in that year compared to 5% for the wider clothing market. Different ways to rent, like P2P platforms, are cropping up in the clothing rental space as well: Wardrobe is a just-launched sharing network operating out of local dry cleaners in Manhattan, letting members borrow high-end, designer and even vintage pieces from each other's closets and solving for the common issues around renting like convenience and value.       As retailers evolve beyond the classic Reduce, Reuse, Recycle mantra to embrace the six pillars described above, they ultimately are moving toward enabling closed-loop systems, embedding sustainability into their business model in a way that merges seamlessness and customer satisfaction with avoidance of waste creation in the first place and repurposing of original materials. This focus is not without good incentive: consumers are a driving factor in the push for true sustainability, wielding their spending power with retailers effecting the changes they want to see. Nielsen found that 81% of surveyed consumers think companies should support improving the environment (this sentiment was particularly strong among millennials and Gen Z), while 50% of CPG growth between 2013 and 2018 came from sustainability-marketed products.   Based on these signals, what could the future look like? A zero-waste restaurant in Brooklyn may give us a glimpse. Mettā re-opened earlier this fall in Fort Greene, partnering with regional farmers to secure ingredients from the source at their peak, concentrating on eco-friendly transportation and preservation methods, and curbing water waste wherever possible. Further, the business purchases electricity from 100% renewable sources, and offsets the 75% of its carbon footprint generated from food production by buying sequestration initiatives, which harness or avoid releasing an equivalent+ amount of carbon into the environment, according to the company's website.       While perhaps a more extreme example, Mettā's viability proves that businesses are taking the next generation of sustainability seriously, moving beyond the ineffectiveness of recycling into an era of inherent sustainability and investing in thoughtful strategies to enable consumption without destruction.   But why should businesses really bother about what a restauranteur is creating in Brooklyn or a grocery store is doing in London? Maybe because a massive population of young, militant people are emerging as potential consumers, who know things can be different and are determined to make them better. They have Greta Thunberg and now there are activists like Feroz Aziz. These passionate minds have better and faster communications tools than your social listening platform can offer and can amass faster than your staff can fire-drill. Moreover, there is infinitely more of them than there are of you, so businesses need to align to a new framework for sustainability and retool for a new set of practices.

Big Brands Struggle to Quit Plastic

Consumer giants are trying switch to other materials and convince customers to use refillable containers, but those efforts face big challenges

At Precycle, a grocery store in New York, the big draw is what it doesn't offer: there are no plastic bags or containers of any sort. PHOTO: SANGSUK SYLVIA KANG FOR THE WALL STREET JOURNAL
The backlash against single-use plastic has sent big brands scrambling to reinvent packaging. So far, they are struggling. To tackle waste and emissions tied to plastic, consumer goods companies such as Unilever UL +0.41% PLC and Nestlé SA NSRGY -0.11% are trying to use less, switch to other materials and convince customers to use refillable containers. But those efforts face big challenges. Switching to paper or glass has its own environmental downsides, while refill models are often expensive or inconvenient. Efforts so far are niche and it isn’t clear whether they will scale up.
Unilever recently scrapped individual wrappers for bulk packs of its Solero ice lollies, cutting plastic by 35%. PHOTO: UNILEVER
Cutting down on plastic is “the area that’s going to require the most innovation,” said Richard Slater, Unilever’s head of research and development. The maker of Dove soap and Hellmann’s mayonnaise recently promised to reduce its plastic packaging—which currently stands at 700,000 metric tons a year—by 100,000 metric tons by 2025 through refillable packaging, smaller containers and swapping materials. Unilever recently scrapped individual wrappers for bulk packs of its Solero ice lollies, instead using a polyethylene-covered cardboard box with dividers, cutting plastic by 35%. It also launched a concentrated version of its Cif household cleaner intended to be diluted with water at home and attached to a reusable spray bottle, reducing plastic by 75%. The Solero change only applied to one seasonal flavor at a single British retailer, while the Cif refill was packaged in plastic and wrapped in a nonrecyclable plastic safety seal, also just in Britain.     image.png Philip Vasquez, a 27-year-old lawyer, said he isn’t drawn to products like the Cif refill because it still uses plastic. Mr. Vasquez says he would like to cut down on plastic but finds it difficult. “If everything is plastic, we literally have no choice but to consume it.” Mr. Slater said Unilever’s plastic-reduction efforts are “all very niche” but it needs to start small to learn what works. “The daunting challenge we’ve got is we need to take these to scale.” Consumer giants are trying to cut virgin plastic to appeal to shoppers and comply with—or forestall—regulation. Unilever plans to halve its use of virgin plastic by 2025, while Procter & Gamble Co. has pledged to do the same by 2030. Mars Inc. and PepsiCo. Inc. have similar plans.
A service called Loop sells products like deodorant, ice cream and shampoo in containers designed to be returned and refilled. PHOTO: LOOP
Companies hope to mostly achieve those reductions by switching to recycled plastic, but there isn’t supply to keep up with surging demand, Rabobank analyst Richard Freundlich said. That is prompting them to look beyond recycling. One fledgling effort, which aims to deliver products and collect back empty packaging, harks back to the milkman. Recycling firm TerraCycle this summer launched a service called Loop in New York and Paris that sells products like Unilever’s Axe deodorant, Nestlé’s Häagen-Dazs ice cream and P&G’s Pantene shampoo in containers designed to be returned and refilled. But customer numbers are limited and its launch in London was delayed to give brands more time to figure out logistics.
Analysts say Loop, which charges a flat shipping fee of $15 for orders under $100 and deposits of up to $10, is aimed at the wealthy and therefore unlikely to scale widely. Loop says it is still in pilot phase and costs will drop as it scales and starts partnering with more physical retailers. An August survey by Global Data showed 71% of 2,000 U.K. shoppers polled said they would buy food from a refill store if the option were available. Shoppers aged 16 to 24 were more than twice as likely to have shopped for food refillables as older ones. Despite consumer interest, refillable packaging is rare due to logistical complications around cleaning, returning and refilling.Curtis Rogers of Austin, Texas, washes his clothes with P&G’s Tide, which comes in hard plastic containers, but the 38-year-old entrepreneur said he would switch to any brand that offers detergent refills. “Hard plastic will last forever, which makes it a great candidate for refilling and reusing,” he said, adding that brands should set up refill stations at farmers markets and outside stores. Despite consumer interest, refillable packaging is rare due to logistical complications around cleaning, returning and refilling. “As soon as you raise the barrier of convenience or cost to consumers their propensity to change their behavior changes significantly,” said Simon Lowden, president of PepsiCo’s global snacks group.
Nestlé this summer launched a line of its Nesquik powder in paper packets rather than plastic tubs. PHOTO: NESTLE
Just 3% of packaging from 139 consumer goods companies, retailers and packaging producers polled by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation—a nonprofit focused on waste—is designed to be reusable. Notable examples are mostly limited to beverages, like water jugs for offices or bottle-deposit programs. In Brazil, Coca-Cola Co. is investing about $25 million to launch “a universal bottle,” which can be returned and refilled with of its brands. Beyond drinks, past trials have flopped. Walmart Inc. ’s U.K. unit, Asda Group Ltd., a decade ago ran a trial selling fabric conditioner in refillable pouches. The conditioner was transported to stores in bulk, stored at the back and piped into the aisle. It failed to take off because there were spillages and shoppers didn’t reuse the pouches enough. Using alternative materials can also get messy. Nestlé this summer launched a line of its Nesquik powder in paper packets rather than plastic tubs. But a sample sent to The Wall Street Journal arrived leaking. A company spokeswoman said it found “no major issues” with the packaging in regular use, and said it was likely due to the product arriving via mail. Paper, as well as being less resilient, requires more water and energy to produce, argue plastic manufacturers. Plastic also better protects against contamination and food waste. Helen Bird of WRAP, a British nonprofit, said plastic-reduction targets “could encourage the wrong behavior” given that all materials have some environmental impact. Instead, WRAP encourages companies to scrap unnecessary plastic and ensure what remains is recycled.

Loop CEO: Zero-Waste Shopping Service Continues to Grow

hero It’s been nine months since the startup Loop, brainchild of TerraCycle founder and CEO Tom Szaky, took the world by storm with its zero-waste circular delivery service. If you’re like us at TriplePundit, you’re probably wondering how it is doing as it nears the one-year mark. While the company does not disclose its total number of subscribers, Szaky gave a candid update at last week’s Bloomberg Sustainable Business Summit in New York.

Adding one brand per day

First announced at the World Economic Forum in January, Loop made its initial start with pilots in metro New York and Paris. Ever since, Szaky says, business has been quickly growing. Today, Loop is available in select areas in New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Vermont, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Maryland and Washington, D.C. It is in the process of expanding throughout the United States, as well as the United Kingdom, Canada, Germany and Japan, Szaky said. And with comments such as “When is Loop coming to Illinois….I can’t wait!” sprinkled across Loop’s Instagram account, it seems expansion can’t come soon enough for many. Loop’s value proposition is enabling the consumer “to responsibly consume a variety of commonly used products from leading consumer brands in customized, brand-specific durable packaging delivered in a specially designed reusable shipping tote.” When finished with the product, the packaging is collected, cleaned, refilled and reused. There are no monthly membership fees or subscriptions, although customers do pay a refundable one-time deposit to borrow the reusable container. “Loop will not just eliminate the idea of packaging waste, but greatly improve the product experience and shopping convenience,” Szaky said at the launch. The initial coalition included 28 partners such as Procter & Gamble, Unilever, PepsiCo, Mondelez International, Nestlé, Danone and UPS.  Today, the list has grown to 42 partners selling brands such as Häagen-DazsTide, Tropicana and Colgate. Essential to Loop’s success is its ability to offer consumers the same choice they would find in brick-and-mortar retail stores, and the Loop management team knew that quickly scaling up offerings was key. According to Szaky, Loop is now adding approximately one new brand per day. The brands themselves seem to be having fun with new packaging design, such as Procter & Gamble, whose ProPantene shampoo and conditioner containers are emblazoned with “I Reuse….I Love the Oceans.”

Shoppers love ice cream from Loop, but not for the reason expected

While the products do come shipped in reusable Loop containers, critics on social media have pointed out that some of the products that Loop sells—including detergent pods and wipes—contain plastic that is not recyclable. But it turns out that this may not be relevant to the majority of Loop consumers: Only a third of Loop subscribers joined the service based on sustainability concerns, Szaky said; the majority claim to have joined because of the model itself, including its convenience, something that even Szaky found surprising—and, it seems, a little frustrating given his zero-waste zeal. To date, the company says beverages in glass bottles such as Evian and Tropicana have been among the top-selling products among Loop subscribers in France. In the United States, top sellers include Clorox wipes, Cascade dishwasher detergent tabs, Pantene shampoo and Häagen-Dazs ice cream.

A few habits that throw this circular economy model for a loop

Another interesting learning that Szaky shared was that while Loop customers want similar prices for products they would buy in traditional stores, they have not been price sensitive to the deposit fees. “It’s exciting that consumers are willing to temporarily invest in the reusable containers,” he remarked. While temporary, the cost of the containers, in some cases, are not inexpensive. Take two of the top-selling products: The container for Clorox Wipes requires a $10 deposit, while the deposit for the Häagen-Dazs ice cream container is $5. Only time will tell if the model will continue to be successful, especially as more and more companies, from Unilever to Nestlépledge to reduce their use of plastic packaging in the next 10 to 20 years. For now, however, this service seems to be a model in high demand.

Loop Review: A Waste-Free Packaging Service For Returning Containers

The service promises to help you cut waste. It’s better at emptying your wallet. When I first heard about Loop, a reusable packaging service designed to help cut down on waste, I couldn’t wait to try it. As a conscious consumer, I am proud of my reusable straws and grocery bags, but I struggle to find affordable, plastic-free alternatives to some of my favorite food brands and household items like shampoo. Plastic packaging has become a frequent target of activist groups campaigning against the deluge of garbage entering the oceans. Items like candy wrappers and soda bottles are some of the most common pieces of trash found on beaches during cleanup efforts, and a handful of giant consumer goods companies are largely responsible for the mess. Several of these companies, including Procter & Gamble, Unilever, Nestle and Coca-Cola, have partnered with Loop, redesigning some of their products’ packaging to discourage people from trashing it. Launched by recycling company TerraCycle, Loop delivers products from name brands like Clorox and Hidden Valley in packaging that can be returned, refilled and redistributed. The service made its debut to much fanfare at the World Economic Forum in January. The returnable, reusable containers are meant to stay in circulation longer than traditional packaging in an attempt to slash not only waste but also climate-warming greenhouse gas emissions. But does it really work in practice? That’s what I wanted to find out. Loop launched a beta test in May, and I signed up for a trial membership over the summer and used the service for two months. Spoiler alert: It wasn’t exactly what I expected. For an in-depth look at what it’s like to use Loop, check out our full review below. Haagen-Dazs ice cream in a metal tin, designed for the Loop service. LOOP Haagen-Dazs ice cream in a metal tin, designed for the Loop service.



After creating a personal account on the Loop store website, you can start shopping. Available products include groceries and items for housecleaning and personal hygiene. The most popular things sold on the service so far have been cleaning products, such as Cascade dishwasher pods and Clorox disinfectant wipes; foods like Häagen-Dazs ice cream; and personal care items, including Pantene shampoo and conditioner, according to Loop representative Lauren Taylor. I placed two orders over the course of my trial, purchasing rolled oats, dry salted almonds, nut butter, coffee, all-purpose cleaner and gummy bears for my first order, and just coffee and oats for my second. They all came in metal containers except for the nut butter, which was in a glass jar. I was disappointed to find that the service offers only a limited number of products, and I was stunned at how much it costs to buy this stuff from the Loop website. (More on that later.) The goods are shipped within two days through UPS and arrive in a very sturdy and large tote bag. Once you’ve emptied the reusable containers, you load up the tote and send them back to be cleaned for reuse. You don’t have to ship all your empties back at the same time ― which makes sense because, as I discovered, my gummy bear supply doesn’t run out at the same rate as my all-purpose cleaner supply. You can also set up your account to automatically refill products in your tote. Loop is currently available in only a few states along the East Coast: New York, New Jersey, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Connecticut, Delaware, Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Vermont, and in Washington, D.C. It also ships to Paris. Next year Loop will expand to London, Toronto, California, Germany and Tokyo, Taylor told HuffPost. She didn’t share how many users have signed up so far, but she said Loop will add more brands and products to its online store as more people use the service. Joan Marc Simon, executive director of Zero Waste Europe, called Loop “a good initiative with the best intentions,” adding that there’s a lot that needs to change about it. I agree, but there are also some great things about the service, so let’s start there. Procter & Gamble, one of the multinationals that partnered with Loop, designed packages for multiple brands -- from personal LOOP Procter & Gamble, one of the multinationals that partnered with Loop, designed packages for multiple brands — from personal hygiene products to cleaning supplies — to be sold on Loop’s website.



1) It’s not too complicated to use

Disposable packaging is tough to quit because it’s incredibly easy and convenient. For a service like Loop to be successful, it has to be as simple and hassle-free as throwing out a candy wrapper, said Simon. Loop isn’t quite as simple as that, but it’s not too difficult to figure out. The online shopping experience was smooth, and the goods arrived as described on the website. Returning Loop’s big tote bag with the empty canisters was easy enough, though not as easy as taking out the trash or recycling. I made a quick pitstop on my morning commute to drop off the goods at a UPS and a day later received an email confirmation that my empty products had been received and a deposit refund was on its way to my credit card.

2) It’ll make you feel good about yourself

As someone who reads and writes a fair amount about plastic, I have serious guilt over my consuming habits. Every plastic soap dispenser or soda bottle I toss away contributes to my sense of personal failure. Even though I bought only a few items from Loop, those were items that didn’t end up in my trash can. Taylor said that Loop has “prevented the manufacturing of thousands of single-use, disposable packaging.” Simon agreed that reusing packages with Loop makes sense as a way to reduce waste. Knowing that Loop was helping me slash my plastic use, even in a small way, made me feel good.

3) It will change the way you think about waste

Testing Loop deepened my sensitivity to waste and made me want to be more proactive. I became more skeptical about the materials around me: Did I have to buy a plastic tub of coffee grounds, or could I wait a day to stop by the store that offers beans in bulk? It seems promising that Loop has convinced several large consumer goods companies to rethink packaging, and it’s easy to envision a world where every company follows suit. Erik Loomis, a history professor at the University of Rhode Island, cautioned me about being too optimistic: By touting their participation in so-called sustainable programs, these companies get an image boost that distracts from how they operate on a global scale and discourages the public from asking what they could be doing better. “If we’re going to actually deal with climate change, we have to deal with the big questions that hold corporations responsible,” Loomis said. Fair enough.


1) It’s not cheap, and the product range is limited 

It’s easy to rack up a large bill with Loop. Though there’s no membership fee (hooray!), there are plenty of other costs built in. You not only have to purchase the products and cover shipping costs, you also must pay a deposit for each reusable container, since you’re essentially renting those from the company. The tote bag is a $15 deposit, and a glass jar of cake mix requires a $3 deposit, while a bottle of body wash takes a $5 deposit. It adds up fast. My first order came to a whopping $85.70. For only six items! To be fair, $32 was for packaging deposits and $20 was for shipping. And I snagged a $20 discount as a first-time customer. For my second round of orders, I bought only two more products, so the total was $37 with the deposits. After using the service for two months, buying a total of eight products and receiving refunds for all my deposits, I paid a total of $69.70. (HuffPost provided funds for the purposes of reporting this piece.) Some of the products in Loop’s online market seemed overly expensive to me. Part of the issue here is that Loop offers just one brand per product (for now), with no cheaper, off-brand alternatives to choose from. Never before have I purchased a $14 nut butter ($16, including the jar deposit), but there were no other options. I can usually find similar goods at my supermarket for less than I can on Loop’s website because there’s more choice outside Loop and I can hunt for a bargain. Product selections are limited on Loop's website. Some categories offer only one choice. If something you want seems too pric LOOPProduct selections are limited on Loop’s website. Some categories offer only one choice. If something you want seems too pricey — like this $14 nut butter — you can’t shop around for a better deal.   Some of these prices are prohibitive if you’re on a tight budget. Which made me wonder if the service would ever become affordable for people who don’t have piles of extra money lying around. Loomis said services like Loop turn environmentalism into “a consumer movement,” something that can be practiced only by well-off people. Right now, Loop is too burdensome for the average working person. The service, he said, appears to have been created “by rich people for rich people.” Taylor said that Loop will keep partnering with additional brands to offer more choices and that most of the current prices are “comparable” to what you’d see in a brick-and-mortar store. She said that Loop doesn’t want to be a luxury service made just for the rich.

2) It’s not totally waste-free

The whole point of Loop is to slash the amount of trash produced by shopping. The company even developed a reusable tote bag to avoid cardboard boxes and packing material. But when my first order arrived, I noticed something odd: Every item, including the tote bag, comes with a plastic seal on it! I asked Taylor about this, and she said it’s a quality control measure. The seals are meant to prove that items haven’t been tampered with during shipping. You can actually send back the plastic seals, along with your empties, to be recycled, Taylor added. Loop’s parent company operates a number of experimental programs for hard-to-recycle items like these. So you don’t have to worry about the plastic wraps ending up in a landfill or an incinerator. My tin of rolled oats, with the clear plastic seal around the lid. Loop says you can send these seals back with your empties KATE BRATSKEIR My tin of rolled oats, with the clear plastic seal around the lid. Loop says you can send these seals back with your empties to be recycled by its parent company, which specializes in hard-to-recycle items.   When it comes to reducing greenhouse emissions, the results are murkier. Online shopping can in some instances have a smaller carbon footprint than in-person shopping, but there are many factors at play here, and they’re tough to measure. I’ll point out, though, that fast shipping uses more resources ― and Loop ships pretty quickly. Using the service instead of driving a car to the store is probably less carbon-intensive, said Simon, especially if lots of people sign up for Loop. “One shipping vehicle can transport [totes] for hundreds of families, which is better than having hundreds of families driving to the supermarket individually,” Simon said. But, in my case, I would have walked to the grocery store instead of driving, so I’m not convinced that having goods delivered to my door by truck is my best option for slashing emissions.

3) It takes up a lot of space

The Loop tote bag is huge. Seriously huge. It drove me and my husband crazy, occupying all that precious floorspace in the living room of our teeny New York City apartment. We also don’t have a lot of countertop space to hoard the reusable containers. Though Loop didn’t totally fit my lifestyle, it might work just fine for someone with more storage space.

4) Sometimes visiting the corner store is just more convenient

It takes a couple of days for the service to send you new items when you run out. That’s not a huge inconvenience, but it could be a problem if you’re waiting on a product you use every day, like bath soap or shampoo. On its website, Loop recommends ordering everyday products two at a time, in case you run out unexpectedly. Ordering two bottles of shampoo is easy in theory, but it takes some getting used to if you’re not a big online shopper, which I’m not. Look at the size of the Loop tote. It's huge. And if you live in a tiny apartment, like me, its size is kind of a pain. LOOP Look at the size of the Loop tote. It’s huge. And if you live in a tiny apartment, like me, its size is kind of a pain.


After using Loop for two months, I decided it’s not the best fit for me. The service isn’t quite ready for prime time, though parts of the experience I liked. I was willing to put up with some inconveniences ― such as paying the deposits on Loop’s reusable containers and stuffing the enormous tote bag behind my couch ― if it meant I’d create less waste. But ultimately the price of buying items through the service was too steep. I would definitely try it again in the future if it were cheaper and the product selection improved. Loomis, the history professor, thinks it’ll take more than that for Loop to succeed at replacing plastic packaging. “If you want to make [reusable packaging] accessible, you need the government’s investment to make it part of American policy rather than a boutique consumer item.” When I asked Simon, the zero-waste expert, if he thought Loop would ever go mainstream, he wasn’t overly optimistic. “I hope the system succeeds, but for the moment I would be surprised if it does,” said Simon. “It definitely needs to be fine-tuned and simplified, but I guess that is the rationale behind the pilot: to learn from mistakes before scaling up.” Taylor said the service will get better as it grows. She added that Loop isn’t meant to be a silver bullet for plastic waste: “There is no single solution to solve the waste crisis we are in.”     Charlotte Maiden Publicist, U.S. Public Relations Loop Global Office: (609)-393-4252 ext. 3712 Cell: (732)-865-6154 1 TerraCycle Way Trenton, NJ  08638 USA www.terracycle.com Eliminating the Idea of Waste® Please consider the planet before printing. This email and any attachments thereto may contain private, confidential, and privileged material for the sole use of the intended recipient. Any review, copying, or distribution of this email (or any attachments thereto) by others is strictly prohibited. If you are not the intended recipient, please contact the sender immediately and permanently delete the original and any copies of this email and any attachments thereto.  

This Company is Designing Reusable Packaging For Major Corporations

One company is working with giants like Tide and Häagen-Dazs to re-fill, reuse and deliver household staples right to your door.   Household products, toiletries, food, and more currently utilize single-use plastic containers and wrappers that end up in the trash. One company is changing that with reusable, refillable packaging.   Tom Szaky is the CEO and Founder of TerraCycle, based in New Jersey, and he says his mission is to make recycling a convenient and streamlined part of everyday life. TerraCycle For nearly 20 years, Szaky has been working with some of the biggest companies in the country to create recycling-friendly packaging for their products, and now, he has a new division called Loop, which “feels like disposability as much as absolutely possible,” explains Szaky.   While the service, in some ways, is a mimicry of people’s existing bad habits, Szaky says that minimal effort on the part of consumers is key in making a big change. “The more we ask a consumer to do, the less likely they are going to take part,” he adds.   A few years ago we started thinking about, ‘how do we solve waste at the root cause?’” - Tom Szaky, TerraCycle   Loop will refill everything from your laundry detergent, to your favorite ice cream in reusable packages that are easy to ship out. As of now, they’ve partnered with Kroger and Walgreens, and the service will soon be coming to Detroit locations.   “A few years ago we started thinking about, ‘how do we solve waste at the root cause?’ and we believe the root cause of waste is using something once and throwing it out. From that question came a new division called Loop which is all about shifting packaging from single use and disposable to multi-use and reusable, without feeling like a reusable system,” says Szaky.

Click on the player to hear TerraCycle’s Tom Szaky talk about the challenges of single-use packaging.

Loop – Reuse like the milkman

Disposability was sold as a convenience in the post-war years of the 1950s, but it’s become a plague of plastic and nonrecyclable trash that now pollutes every corner of the world. It’s enough to make one nostalgic for the milkman—that reliable delivery person who not only dropped off milk in convenient glass bottles, but also picked them up again to be refilled and reused. Ah, those were the days… and we may see those days again. Loop—an online “circular shopping platform”—aims to revive the image and model of the milkman on a larger scale, offering customers door-to-door delivery of brand-name grocery store products in durable packaging that Loop will collect and use again. http://www.greenenergyfutures.ca/wp-content/uploads/2019/10/Milkman-cropped.jpg

Reusability: Back to the future

“Loop is a very utopian idea,” says Tony Rossi, Loop’s Philadelphia-based vice president of business development. “About three years ago, our CEO challenged us and himself to really solve the idea of waste at its core.” For Loop, this means enabling brands and retailers—the heart of our “take, make, dispose” linear economy—to move away from single-use packaging into durable, multiuse containers. Ultimately, the idea is to spark a wider movement to a circular economy, an economic model based on getting us much use out of the products and resources that are already in circulation, and thereby reducing both consumption and waste. The image of the milkman is a perfect embodiment of the circular economy. “One of the things that we found with the milkman model was that the milk bottle was an asset that was owned by the milk company,” Rossi explained. This made it desirable for the milk company to invest more in its milk bottles, to ensure that they would be long-lasting and durable. Tony Rossi of Loop

From laundry detergent to ice cream

Häagen-Dazs container Häagen-Dazs container Much more than milk, you can buy a grocery list of goods from Loop: tea, laundry detergent, shampoo, even ice cream, all in reusable containers. Loop is working with some of the world’s biggest brands to test this back-to-the-future idea of selling products in reusable containers. The list Rossi gave of some of Loop’s early partners was impressive: Procter and Gamble, Unilever, Nestle, Clorox, Mars, and Danone, to name a few. The containers Loop uses to ship these products aren’t your run-of-the-mill Ziplocs or Tupperware containers. Just as the milkman model would suggest, there is significant investment in high-quality, durably designed containers for Loop’s products. “For me one of the most innovative and kind of jaw-dropping products so far has been the Häagen-Dazs ice cream container,” says Rossi. “It’s double-walled.” Loop’s Häagen-Dazs container is not only designed to have the longest lifespan possible—it is also designed to keep your ice cream deliciously frozen, all the way from the Loop warehouse to your door. But Loop’s containers aren’t just utilitarian; they are also beautifully designed. “There is a counter- or shelf-worthiness to the package, where you as a consumer are proud to put that on your counter,” said Rossi. Loop is trying to make sustainability “irresistible.” Loop how it works

How it works

Loop has no storefront. Instead, customers visit loopstore.com and place an online order, which Loop ships to their door via courier. When they are done with their products, customers can schedule a Loop courier to come pick up the empty containers. Loop has even designed a reusable shipping tote to be used for both delivery and pick-up, thus avoiding the Styrofoam and bubble wrap waste nightmare of most online purchases. Loop works on a deposit system, in which customers pay a deposit on the packaging of the products they order. You would, for instance, be required to pay a five-dollar deposit on your Häagen-Dazs ice cream container on top of the cost of the ice cream itself. Once you return the empty container, however, you would be reimbursed for the amount of the deposit.

Coming soon!

Before you get too excited, note that Loop is currently in its pilot phase, with test markets operating in the eastern United States and in Paris, France. Each test market has 5,000 participating households, but demand is high. There are currently waiting lists in these markets, with people itching to give Loop a try. With so much demand, Loop is working on launching the platform directly through retailers, as well as expanding the platform globally. Loop plans to launch new markets in the western United States, Germany, Japan, and Australia next year. Canada can expect to see Loop in the Greater Toronto Area in fall 2020. Loop featured products A sampling of Loop products in reusable containers.

Better for the environment?

While Loop’s circular economy model does a tremendous job of reducing packaging waste, the shipping and the materials used to make their new, durable containers must still be taken into account. According to Rossi, Loop has done multiple life cycle analyses of the impact of its reuse model as compared to that of single-use models. These analyses take into account eight different environmental factors, including carbon emissions, water usage, and impact on air and water quality—and reuse consistently comes out on top. “On average, it takes about three reuses of that durable package to have the same environmental footprint as three single-use packages,” Rossi explained. If a package is used between three and seven times, it performs 51 per cent better than single-use packaging in terms of environmental impact. If used more than seven times, this improvement increases to 70 per cent.

Waste not! Change is coming

Waste and other environmental issues are all over the news and social media these days, whether it be microplastics, plastic bags, or Greta Thunberg’s climate strikes. For Rossi, this increase in public attention and awareness of the environmental impact of our current lifestyles can mean only one thing: change is coming. “People aren’t content with the way that things are today. And everybody acknowledges the fact that we need to change. And I think that’s a powerful message. And that is forcing the hands of anybody who makes products, or is in business, to think about their environmental footprint.” Indeed, change is desperately needed. As Rossi said, “We realistically can’t fast forward 30 years into the future and continue to behave the way we’re behaving today.” He hopes Loop can play a role in spreading the gospel of the waste-not circular economy. Loop is a company owned and operated by TerraCycle, a social enterprise based in the United States that specializes in collecting and repurposing hard-to-recycle waste and operates in 20 countries. We interviewed Rossi after he presented on Loop at the Recycling Council of Alberta Sea Change conference held in Jasper, Alberta, October 2–4, 2019.

The world's biggest brands have a garbage problem. This man can help

The world's largest consumer goods companies have a big problem: The plastic waste that piles up in landfills and oceans has their corporate logos all over it. To try to fix it, they're increasing recycling efforts, sponsoring beach cleanups and switching up packaging materials, among other things. The most radical effort, though, is also the hardest to pull off: Get consumers to switch from single-use to reusable packages.   It may seem impossible, but Procter & Gamble, Unilever, Nestlé, Clorox and PepsiCo are all trying it out, thanks to Tom Szaky.   Szaky is the founder and CEO of TerraCycle, a recycling company based in Trenton, New Jersey. He's also the driving force behind Loop, an innovative service he likens to a 21st century milk man. Launched in May, the service sells brand-name goods like Tide detergent, Pantene shampoo, Gillette razors and Häagen-Dazs ice cream all in reusable packages. Participants pay a refundable deposit for each package, use the products, throw the empty containers into a Loop tote and send them back to be cleaned and refilled. Tom Szaky, founder and CEO of TerraCycle, convinced Procter & Gamble, Unilever, Nestlé and other large consumer goods makers to launch a new shopping service using reusable packaging. (Mark Kauzlarich for CNN) Tom Szaky, founder and CEO of TerraCycle, convinced Procter & Gamble, Unilever, Nestlé and other large consumer goods makers to launch a new shopping service using reusable packaging. (Mark Kauzlarich for CNN)   The stakes are high for all involved. For Szaky, failure could mean the loss of a significant investment and his reputation as a green business whiz. The companies, too, poured time and money into the project. For them, failure means one fewer solution to their plastic waste problem.   It's "the biggest risk we've ever done," Szaky told CNN Business's Rachel Crane. "It's in every way a massive gamble."   But Szaky is no stranger to risk.   Can one man bring back reusable packaging?    Durable packaging fell out of fashion decades ago, when cheap, disposable plastics replaced glass bottles and containersToday, reintroducing the public to a system of reusable packaging is a tall orderConsumers have become accustomed to the ease of quickly tossing things away. Reusing items, however, requires them to take an extra step to preserve the packages. That's why, when Lisa McTigue Pierce, executive editor of Packaging Digest, heard about Loop, she was skeptical.   "When I first got the information, I thought to myself, 'Wow, this is never going to take off,'" she said. But then she had another thought. "This is Tom Szaky at TerraCycle ... one of the best marketers I have ever seen," she said. "If anybody could make this work, it's going to be Tom."   That's because Szaky has a history of pulling off the improbable. A number of Loop products, all of which are in reusable containers, are arranged before a Loop tote.  (Mark Kauzlarich for CNN) A number of Loop products, all of which are in reusable containers, are arranged before a Loop tote. (Mark Kauzlarich for CNN)   Eighteen years ago, as a freshman at Princeton, he came up with the idea to sell worm poop as a natural fertilizer. Szaky turned it into a business, and soon dropped out of college to make it grow.   He convinced Princeton undergraduates to work for free, and persuaded older friends to leave their steady jobs for leadership positions at the company. In its early years, leaning on paltry funds from investors and winnings from entrepreneurship competitions, TerraCycle teetered on the edge of collapse.   But then Szaky convinced big-box retailers like Home Depot and Walmart, which were already stocking established fertilizers like Miracle-Gro, to take a chance on his product. It's easy to see why they might have turned him down. TerraCycle's plant food was not only made from waste but packaged in waste, too: used soda bottles and discarded caps.   While Szaky was chasing meetings with major retailers, other eco-friendly companies and environmentalists were swearing to never work with the likes of Walmart. But Szaky has always believed that in order for his green products to make a difference, he would have to work with — not against — corporate America. He's taking that approach with Loop today.   "My goal consumer is someone in the middle of America who may still even not be convinced on climate change, because if I can get him to participate, then we can really change the world," he said. "This is why we're working with the largest manufacturers, the largest retailers. Because that is what America likes today."   Szaky has always been able to get people's attention.   In 2003, when he was just 23 years old, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation ran a short documentary about TerraCycle. In it, Szaky talks openly about his fears and the risk he's taken, revealing that he asked investors for money to build a facility that would help fill nonexistent orders, and that he was pushing a new product he wasn't sure worked. His openness is charming, as is his obvious commitment to the cause: Szaky lugs furniture left behind by Princeton students back to a dilapidated house dedicated to putting up staffers over the summer, and refuses to buy any new packaging — or do anything the "normal" way. Three years later, at age 26, Szaky had landed on the cover of Inc. Magazine, which lauded TerraCycle as "the Coolest Little Start-Up in America."   Since then, he's written four books and maintained his status as a media darling, even launching a TerraCycle reality show called "Human Resources" on the now defunct network Pivot. It lasted for three seasons. Szaky, left, speaks with a coworker in his office. Recycled plastic bottles form a curtain that walls off his office at the TerraCycle headquarters in Trenton, New Jersey. (Mark Kauzlarich for CNN) Szaky, left, speaks with a coworker in his office. Recycled plastic bottles form a curtain that walls off his office at the TerraCycle headquarters in Trenton, New Jersey. (Mark Kauzlarich for CNN)   Szaky, now in his late 30s, is still able to punch above his weight. Two years ago, at the ritzy World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, he landed a spot on stage with the CEOs of Walmart, Alibaba and Heineken to discuss the future of consumption. And he is still successful at enticing employees, some of which have taken major pay cuts, to work out of TerraCycle's modest headquarters in Trenton, New Jersey, which is decorated with trash.   Heather Crawford, vice president of marketing and eCommerce for Loop, left a managerial position at Johnson & Johnson to join TerraCycle in November. "Tom is a visionary who genuinely dreams about a waste-free world," she said. "He has these idealistic goals that he drives the whole team towards, and he asks people to do the impossible."   Over the years, TerraCycle evolved, moving on from fertilizer to transforming items that are difficult to recycle into something new. Today, TerraCycle repurposes used batteries, backpacks, coffee capsules, cooking oil and more. The company is doing well: In the first six months of 2019, TerraCycle reported net income of $1.8 million on revenue of $11.2 million. Sales were up 19% from the same period a year earlier, driven in part by new recycling partnerships with Gillette, Williams and Sonoma, Reebok and General Mills.   In September, TerraCycle also launched a car seat recycling event with Walmart. The event proved so popular, Walmart shut it down early, citing an "overwhelming response."   "We have a successful, profitable, growing business," Szaky said. The new venture could change that. With Loop, "we are sort of putting that on the line," Szaky noted.   "We've put close to 10 million of our own dollars into it. We're going to put even more," he added. "Any big idea requires that leap."   Convenience is key   In order for Loop to work, it has to be easy for consumers.   Today, consumers demand convenience, noted Pierce of Packaging Digest. "Without that — even with Tom and all of his strong partners, the consumer packaged goods companies — I don't know that it would work.   Especially when you think of the cost premium for this service," she said. "That convenience angle is everything."   Although Loop products are designed to cost about the same as their traditional counterparts, users do have to put down a deposit when they make a purchase online. The deposit can range from 25 cents to $10, depending on the item.   Consumers get it back unless they break, keep or lose the package. But some customers may be unwilling or unable to put down a deposit upfront. Individual deposits add up, and if people use the service for long periods of time, they won't get that money back for a while.   Szaky, who recognizes that the deposit could be a roadblock for some, aims to make Loop as convenient as possible. His hope is that customers will toss their empties into a used tote just as they would toss their empty containers into the trash. There's no need to wash them first: Loop handles the cleaning. And thanks to the rise of e-commerce, consumers see delivery as the most convenient option already.   Plus, in 2020, Loop products are slated to be available in major retailers like Walgreens and Kroger. That means, in addition to at-home pickup and delivery, consumers will be able to buy and drop off Loop products in person. Ultimately, Szaky wants to build a big enough network to allow customers to pop into one local store to buy a Loop product, and swing by another to drop a Loop package off.   For Szaky, ubiquity will be a marker of success.   "I would sit back and start feeling like we're doing it when I see Loop pop up unconsciously," he said. "I would feel we really got there where it's a common question of, 'Hey, would you like that in disposable or durable?'"   Szaky thinks things are moving in the right direction. Companies that committed to join the pilot with just a few products have added others, and more are in the pipeline. Loop currently includes 120 products and the service adds an average of two new products every week.   When new brands join, their competitors tend to hop on board, as well, afraid of being outdone. For example, Loop launched with reusable Häagen-Dazs ice cream containers, and soon "the biggest ice cream companies, their competitors, called us and said, 'How do we get involved? How do we go even bigger?'" Szaky recalled. This is "what competition is supposed to do, is keep making products better and pushing each other." Nestlé designed a reusable Häagen-Dazs container for Loop, sparking envy from its competitors. (Brinson + Banks for CNN) Nestlé designed a reusable Häagen-Dazs container for Loop, sparking envy from its competitors. (Brinson + Banks for CNN)   Today, Loop operates in parts of France and the East Coast in the United States, and is used by more than 10,000 people. Orders are continuously increasing each week, and repeat order rates are strong, the company says. Next year, the service will launch in London, Toronto and Tokyo, as well as parts of Germany and California.   Scaling up so broadly and so quickly is risky, however.   "One of the things that keeps me up at night is building out the actual operational scale-up plan," said Crawford.   A lot had to happen just to get Loop to the pilot phase. Companies had to develop new durable containers that were easy to clean and use. It took Nestlé 15 tries to get that envy-inducing ice cream container right. Szaky and his corporate partners have to make sure that packages are delivered, collected, cleaned and reshipped in a timely manner — a complex logistical proposition, especially considering how many different companies are involved. Loop currently uses one cleaning facility in Southeast Pennsylvania to process its US-based orders. But as it continues to expand, TerraCycle says it will need to add more facilities in other parts of the country.   For now, the project is small, and the Loop team is taking careful notes on consumer behaviors, complaints and preferences. But if Loop gets as big as Szaky wants it to, the system will have to work, impeccably, on its own.   "All of the moving pieces, logistically, operationally, new facilities in all of these regions and all of the steps and pieces that need to happen in the expansion plan is something that's going to take a tremendous amount of time and attention from our team, and also support from partners," Crawford said.   If things go wrong — orders get held up, items are out of stock, or people feel burdened by yet another shopping platform — people could give up on the idea of reusables.   Historically, consumers have often valued convenience over the environment. Starbucks, for example, has tried for years to get consumers to use reusable cups, selling durable versions of their cup for a few dollars and offering discounts to customers who bring their own mugs. But the company has consistently found that despite its efforts, just a small fraction of consumers actually bring their own cup to the store. Can Loop finally crack the code, convincing consumers to switch to reusables?   Meanwhile, the clock is ticking: companies participating in Loop won't wait forever for the concept to prove out.   Eventually, "their primary concern is going to be return to shareholders," Crawford said. "At some point in this process it needs to become profitable."   Experts are optimistic that this time, things could be different.   With Loop, Szaky's "timing is impeccable," said Pierce. Consumers are looking for solutions to the plastic waste crisis, and Loop could be a good one. Ultimately, companies may go in a different direction, like biodegradable wrapping or package-free grocery aisles instead of reusable containers. Szaky's company TerraCycle transforms hard-to-recycle items, like batteries, backpacks and coffee capsules, into something new. (Mark Kauzlarich for CNN) Szaky's company TerraCycle transforms hard-to-recycle items, like batteries, backpacks and coffee capsules, into something new. (Mark Kauzlarich for CNN)   No matter what, big corporations will have to seriously reconsider the way their goods are being sold. Unilever said on Monday that it plans to cut its use of non-recycled plastic in half by 2025. To deliver on that promise, the company will have to collect over 660,000 tons of plastic per year, and continue to innovate its product line. In addition to reusable packages, Unilever has tried out soap-like shampoo bars, bamboo toothbrushes and cardboard deodorant sticks, among other things.   "The challenge around packaging is not going to go away," said Tensie Whelan, director of NYU Stern School of Business's Center for Sustainable Business. "Growing regulatory scrutiny of it is not going to go away. Growing consumer concern about it is not going to go away. And growing cost of waste disposal and the environmental impact is not going to go away."   Szaky knows that his partners are in desperate need of a solution. When he first approached companies about Loop, he targeted ones that were featured on a Greenpeace list of worst plastics polluters, because he knew they had a potential public relations crisis on their hands. He's hoping that the scope of the problem will inspire the type of changes needed to make Loop a success.   "Loop is a gargantuan ask," Szaky acknowledged. "We're going into a Procter & Gamble and saying, 'reinvent the packaging of these world-famous products completely, build production lines to fill this reinvented package, oh, and, by the way, I have no proof if anyone's going to buy it at all.'"   And Szaky knows that people are paying attention to what he's doing. Loop has "a very big responsibility," he said. "I think a lot of people are going to think about whether there's a future in reuse by whether we succeed or not."