If you walk into a Fred Meyer supermarket in Portland, Oregon, in late October, you might notice something new: In some of the chain’s stores, a new section will sell common products, like hand soap, in reusable packaging that customers can later bring back to the store.
Kroger, which owns the chain and plans to roll out the new reusable section in 25 Fred Meyer stores in Portland before potentially expanding to other cities, is one of several retailers to begin using Loop, a platform for reusable packaging that started with online orders
. “It’s really aligned with our vision of a world with zero waste,” says Denise Osterhues, senior director of sustainability and social impact at Kroger. “It’s innovative, and it’s a platform that could ultimately help end single-use packaging and disposability that we’ve all become so accustomed to.”
Customers pay a deposit on the package, which they get back when they return it to a drop-off bin in the store. Then Loop sorts the packaging at a “micro node” nearby, and sends it to a larger facility for cleaning and sanitizing, before ultimately returning it to a manufacturing facility to be refilled and reused. Some of the brands in the platform use standard packaging that just hasn’t been reused in the past, like Gerber baby food in glass containers.
The same platform launched in Tesco, the U.K. supermarket chain, in ten stores earlier this month. Tesco, which is offering 88 different items in reusable packaging, calculated that if customers in those 10 stores switch to the reusable version of three products—Coca-Cola, Heinz Tomato Ketchup, and Ecover cleaning products—the packages would be reused more than 2.5 million times a year. While the new store display has signs explaining how the system works, Tesco is also using Loop “ambassadors” at the launch to help customers understand what to do. “It’s effectively exactly like how organic came to life in stores, when you would walk into a store and see an organic section and then shop that section if you care about organic products,” says Tom Szaky, CEO and founder of Terracycle, the recycling company that created the Loop platform.
[Photo: Loop]The system launched in late 2020 in Carrefour, a large retailer in France, and in Aeon stores in Japan in May 2021. Walgreens plans to begin using the in-store system in early 2022, and Ulta Beauty will follow sometime next year, along with Woolworth’s in Australia. Some restaurant chains are also beginning to use the system, including McDonald’s, Burger King, and Tim Horton’s.
Kroger chose to launch first in Fred Meyer stores in Portland, Osterhues says, because the company knew that customers in the area were particularly interested in sustainability (the stores also have a larger physical footprint than some of the company’s other supermarkets, so there was more space available for the new display). It hopes to expand. “Our hope would be to scale it, because that’s when it becomes truly financially beneficial, as well as better impact for our planet,” she says.
“The critical piece here is scale,” says Szaky. “It’s more brands and retailers really taking this seriously by going in-store and then scaling their in-store presence. And that will then leave us where hopefully in a few years from now, you’ll be able to go anywhere, into your favorite retailer, and see a Loop section with whatever your favorite brands are.”
New legislation could also help push it forward, he says. In France, for example, a new anti-waste law
includes a ban that will begin next year on disposable tableware in restaurants, including fast food chains. “That’s actually a pretty big deal for something like a McDonald’s,” he says.
Tom Szaky says, “Wow! "
Maybe he plugs his nose like we all do, but in front of a full Pampers - just like in front of a cigarette butt, glasses of glasses thrown in the trash or fabrics with enigmatic names of fibers doomed to the dumps. - he sees the opportunity to find a solution.
Born in Hungary, arrived in Toronto at the age of 5, now living in New Jersey - he studied at Princeton -, Tom Szaky is truly one of the entrepreneurs who stand out in the world by greedily embracing the challenges of the circular economy.
You may know one of his babies, Loop, a company already present in the United States, France and the United Kingdom, which has just arrived in Canada and which allows brands sold in supermarkets to use containers. recorded. It's being tested in Toronto now, in partnership with Loblaw and other well-known brands, such as Heinz or Häagen-Dazs. "It's been just over a week and we've exceeded our one-month goals," Szaky said in a telephone interview.
Basically: we order online, it is delivered by Loop, the customer consumes the contents - soup, ketchup, juice, etc. -, and the container is then taken back by a delivery system which will carry everything for cleaning. Then the containers will return to the brands, who will refill them, resell them. You get the picture.
And it will be in Montreal at the beginning of 2022, the garbage recycling giant told me.
Because there isn't just Loop in the life of the 39-year-old entrepreneur.
There is also TerraCycle, his first company, dedicated to the transformation of waste.
His first product, at the very beginning, in 2001, was kitchen waste, which he vermicomposted, sold in recycled plastic bottles.
But today, it has gone much further in the recovery and transformation of waste long considered irrecoverable, such as dirty disposable diapers - which its teams make into plastics in particular - and cigarette butts, from which they also extract plastics from the filter, while composting the rest of the tobacco.
TerraCycle also works to collect and process plastic bottles around the world. Because the company is everywhere, from Tokyo to Trenton, in Ontario, present in twenty countries.
With laboratories all over the place, but mainly in New Jersey - in a landfill - TerraCycle is constantly doing research. Its business model: wait for a major player to ask for its help. The company does not seek to sell its green solutions. She finds solutions for those who want them. In large scale. Its partners are called Walgreens, Home Hardware, Procter & Gamble… The list goes on.
One of the next projects: promoting waste as an information medium. The contents of diapers say a lot about the health of babies, as does used oil on the condition of engines, says Tom Szaky. You might as well take advantage of everything that can be revealed.
Another avenue explored: the Loop system of material reuse in a loop, but applied to cloth diapers and children's clothing.
It's coming fast in the United States and the United Kingdom. In both cases, in partnership with very large companies.
So, we forget the small community cloth diaper cleaning service. We think big brands sold in supermarkets.
With cleaning, transport and reuse systems in the case of diapers. And simply a cash deposit system, such as a deposit, in the case of baby clothes. Deposit that we recover, of course, by bringing back clothes that have become too small.
TerraCycle is not a newcomer to the world of waste recovery and recycling. It was founded in 2001 when young Szaky was a student at Princeton. It was during a trip with friends from university to Montreal, at this time, that he saw for the first time worms transforming organic waste into compost and that he had the idea of make the first product of his waste recovery business.
Today, about a third of the company's work is industrial waste, and the rest is our everyday consumer waste.
The next challenge right now is, you guessed it, on the side of masks, gloves and all the disposable equipment used in the fight against COVID-19. “There's a whole new stream of waste here,” says Szaky.
TerraCycle takes care of it.
But the real challenge, 20 years after the discovery of vermicomposting, is no longer concentrated at all towards the quest for new waste streams, new gold in the bins. The new frontier is logistics on a large scale, the search for solutions that work on a large scale and, above all, very, very large.
Loop, for example, now operates on a large scale in the United Kingdom with the giant Tesco, in France with Carrefour, and in the United States with notably Walgreens and Burger King! Major players.
Currently, explains Mr. Szaky, there is a remarkable awakening of individuals to the need to produce less waste as well as to recover and reuse objects. Consumers' support is therefore less difficult to obtain than before. Loop's home in Toronto is one example, as is the proliferation of grocery stores offering unpackaged products.
But the world of recovery and reuse is also becoming more complex, and the financial challenges are not trivial.
The price of oil is low, so there is less reason to want to recover its derivatives otherwise. Also, the raw material is not what it was 20 years ago. There is less waste than before, they are lighter, packaging is often made with more complex materials, more difficult to work with and to break down. (Besides, Szaky thinks that packaging should be simplified, not become more and more multi-layered and multi-material.)
Countries that bought waste from others became more demanding. We saw it, in Quebec, when China started to refuse our waste.
When I ask him if the company also intends to take new paths to integrate its work into larger, more global pollution reduction systems, Tom Szaky answers no.
“You want to focus on one problem and be good,” he says. So Loop does not come with a guarantee of green transport, for example.
It is up to the partners to then be consistent. In France, Carrefour is looking for a solution for “green” delivery.
And can consumers do more to recycle better?
Should we buy everything second-hand? At TerraCycle, offices all over the planet are fitted out and furnished with recycled materials, used objects.
“Actually, no,” Mr. Szaky replies.
“What is needed more than anything is buying less. "
Whether it’s styrofoam
, plastic straws
, or cardboard, there’s no escaping the fact that the convenience of fast food dining has typically been served with more than just an inconvenience to the environment. But in recent years, major chains have aimed to reduce disposable packaging
and, in some cases, attempt to remove it from their restaurants altogether. Notably, Starbucks and McDonald’s joined forces
(pre-pandemic) to support the launch of a test run of returnable coffee cups. Now, another burger giant is joining in as Burger King announces plans to rest reusable cups and containers beginning next year.
Today, Burger King says it “has launched a partnership with TerraCycle’s circular packaging service, Loop, to pilot a closed-loop system with zero-waste packaging that can be safely cleaned and refilled to be reused, again and again.” The test run will begin sometime in 2021 at locations in New York City, Portland, and Tokyo, however, more cities are expected to be added to that list.
Burger King restaurants are continuing efforts to minimize environmental impact across the globe by testing a new reusable packaging model that will help cut down on packaging waste. The brand, as part of its Restaurant Brands for Good framework, has launched a partnership with TerraCycle’s circular packaging service, Loop, to pilot a closed-loop system with zero-waste packaging that can be safely cleaned and refilled to be reused, again and again.
Together with Loop, the trial will offer restaurant guests the option to conveniently reduce waste when ordering their favorite Burger King brand staples like the Whopper sandwich, soft drink or coffee in reusable sandwich containers or beverage cups.
In a bit of non-cow farting news
, Burger King is quietly experimenting with a potentially environmentally friendly change by testing out reusable packaging for food, soft drinks, and coffee, The Hill
reports. BK is partnering with TerraCycle’s zero-waste delivery platform, called Loop, to get this started.
When you order your food and choose the reusable packaging option for the first time, you’ll be charged a deposit fee which will be returned when the reusable packaging is returned, Burger King’s press release
states. Everything will be washed and reused to prevent excess packaging waste.
I am in favor for this idea, though I’m sure, knowing me, some of these containers are going to sit in my car for a little too long. I can’t guarantee they’ll smell too good, either, but now that cold weather is coming, maybe it won’t be as bad as food remnants in summer heat. Or, I imagine, if people really like the packaging they’ll just keep it at home for a while and reuse it there, though I’m not sure how much use you could get out of a plastic clamshell box, except maybe as a place to save extra ketchup packets.