Posts with term Kroger X

4 Reality Checks About Packaging and the Great Pacific Garbage Patch

Kids are visual — and keyed in to change. So, when a friend’s 10-year-old, Everleigh, engaged me in a conversation about what plastics were doing to the oceans, I gave her my full attention. “Let me show you,” she said. She pulled up a Tik-tok video, and I watched as a massive crane dumped thousands upon thousands of large plastic containers and other debris onto the deck of a ship. Part of the notorious Great Pacific Garbage Patch, this junk had been successfully scooped up from the sea. Everleigh’s excitement over the progress this video shares is why we see so many leading brands pledge to help rid the planet of waste. She is their future customer. Or maybe not. Here’s what we know: • 92% of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch (GPGP) is comprised of large-sized debris, containing nearly 1.8 trillion pieces of plastic. • 8% of the GPGP is comprised of single-use plastic packaging, but a larger percentage is tossed into rivers where debris flows downstream, breaks apart. and end up on the ocean floor. • Compounding this problem, large debris eventually breaks down to pieces no larger than a centimeter, called “microplastics.” • Over time, microplastics sink to the ocean floor where they are impossible to remove; they are mistaken for food by marine life. • Discarded fishing nets — also known as ghost nets — along with other fishing industry debris, account for 46% of the GPGP’s mass. Marine life often gets caught in the nets. Reality Check #1: According to the National Geographic Society, as of 2018, it would take 67 ships operating every day for one year to rid the GPGP of just 1% of the debris. Can it be cleaned up? Although the outlook seems bleak, there are advances under way that leverage science and technology to clean up the GPGP. The Ocean Clean Up project announced in October of 2021 that its experimental clean-up fleet had successfully cleared more than 63,000 pounds of plastic debris in a single haul. Based on these findings, the organization is increasing its fleet and is greatly optimistic it’ll reduce up to 50% of the patch every five years, with the end goal of removing the great patch altogether by 2040. It’s worth noting that these projections include debris that is continuously being added to the patch. Reality check #2: According to Covestro, a global supplier of high-tech polymer materials, “Infrastructure systems designed to manage and collect waste have struggled to keep up with the dramatic rise of single-use plastics in circulation, and as a result, plastic pollution has increased rapidly in recent years, especially in developing countries.” Why add to the patch in the first place? It’s long been my belief as a packaging designer that the problem is not only the patch itself, but the process that created it. In other words, we have a responsibility to accelerate packaging innovation to avoid adding fuel to the fire that is the patch. We need smarter ways to design reusable and biodegradable packaging and become true players in the circular economy. Remember, the next generation is watching. Kids are not only seeing the tortoise in distress with the straw in its nose; they are also learning about the perils of plastic in school. Brands that take this seriously will not only make good on their pledges, but fuel their appeal to the next generation and outperform lagging competitors. So, who’s getting it right? Loop Ulta Beauty Group Shot-web_0.jpg Closing the Loop. Loop is a subscription service for food and household goods, launched by TerraCycle. The Loop services are offered through major chains such as Walgreens and Kroger. Currently testing their concept nationally, the service provides people with products in reusable packaging, such as shampoo bottles and ice cream containers. Once empty, packaging is picked up, refilled, and reused. Loop has also partnered with Ulta Beauty, a national personal care brand, to offer its portfolio of sustainable products. As befits its name, Loop is a prime example of the emerging circular economy. Companies are reinventing reusable. Just take a look at what Häagen-Dazs is offering through Loop. As part of a reusable delivery strategy, the brand created an attractive stainless-steel canister. The design is ideal for a premium brand. The containers provide a new canvas for packaging ingenuity. Reminiscent of old-school metal lunch canisters, images and graphics jump off the silver background. With such a substantial upgrade, Häagen-Dazs stands out from other premium ice creams, essential in a competitive category. Thanks to this packaging, the ice cream is even more fun and delicious to eat. The double-walled container allows the ice cream to melt more quickly at the top than at the bottom. This way, people enjoy a balanced level of density. The ice cream maintains its consistency even when you reach the bottom. The container also protects the product throughout transport. This is more than just sustainable packaging; it’s packaging that elevates the consumer experience. Colgate-recyclable-tubes-web.jpg It’s on record, more than a billion toothpaste tubes in the US alone end up in landfills. No doubt many go to the oceans. One reason for this is that the packaging is manufactured with multiple layers making it ineligible for recycling. Colgate-Palmolive spent five years developing a new recyclable tube made of high-density polyethylene (HDPE), the same plastic that is used for milk jugs, with the promise of compatibility with our current recycling infrastructure. This is no doubt a breakthrough for the category. Reality Check #3: While this is a great concept, we know a large portion of recyclable packaging still goes to waste. That’s because our recycling industry (the people who pick up/sort our trash) urgently needs an overhaul. How does the recycling facility know the difference between this tube and every other? Tom-Newmaster-recyclable-tubes-quote-web.jpg Sugarcane — how sweet it is. Sugarcane usage as a packaging material is blowing up right now. It possesses the trifecta of ethical packaging benefits: it’s renewable, biodegradable, and compostable. In fact, anything made from sugarcane will degrade within 60 to 90 days. We’re seeing it everywhere: coffee cups, utensils, single-use plates, to-go boxes, bags, lids, pizza boxes, straws, and tons more. Companies like Good Start Packaging — a leading source of sugarcane packaging — are also a real threat to expanded polystyrene foam (EPS). Here’s a material that takes 500 years to degrade and consumes 30% of the space in every landfill. If it goes to the ocean, EPS inevitably breaks down into microplastic. And we all know what that does to marine life. A parting word from Everleigh.
I mentioned my friend’s daughter Everleigh who, at 10, is passionate about preserving our oceans. So, what can we do to assure her generation they’re being heard? We can start by taking accountability for the role our industries play in addressing the problems. I’ve talked about some of the innovations and new materials that packagers are bringing to the table. I’ve also shared what activists are doing to clean up the GPGP. But here’s the final reality check. Reality check #4: We can fix the mistakes of past generations, but it takes more forward thinking to make our efforts toward sustainability “sustainable.” Four questions we need to ask ourselves to really bring about change: 1.  How can we improve the recycling infrastructure so that the degradable toothpaste tube goes to the right place? According to Unilever, “It’s technically possible to recycle about 70% of our product portfolio. However, what is actually recycled is lower because of the lack of infrastructure of communities.” 2.  How we ensure that new materials, whether sugarcane or innovative plastics, get sorted correctly and not end up in the ocean? 3.  How do we advance the use of products that truly fit the circular economy, such as reusables, compostables, and post-consumer recycled plastics (PCR)? 4.  How do we partner with our clients to create packaging that would delight Everleigh’s generation? This starts with avoiding new plastics; instead using only recycled options. As a packaging designer, I realize this isn’t a small ask, but a necessary one, considering the power each generation has on the way we live our lives, conduct business, and confront change. If we want to create a loyal customer base, we need to accept that the “wonder material” known as plastic needs to adapt well to our new circular economy.

A Closer Look at Kroger’s Growing Reusable Packaging Program

Kroger recently launched an assortment of products in reusable packaging in select U.S. stores via its partnership with circular packaging firm Loop. The debut marks an important expansion in the grocery retailer's larger sustainability efforts and Loop's first in-store launch. The partners debuted an in-store pilot in the U.S. at 25 Kroger-owned Fred Meyer stores in Portland, Oregon, and offers a variety of products to customers in reusable packaging, including products from leading national brands and  Kroger’s Simple Truth private label. Here's how the Loop partnership works: Developed by circular reuse platform TerraCycle, Loop recovers and sanitizes reusable packaging for recirculation with new products. Subscribers pay a deposit ranging from 15 cents for a glass beverage bottle to $10 for a stainless-steel container of disinfecting wipes. Participating manufacturers introduce products that employ reusable packaging. These products are placed in a designated Loop section of participating retail stores, which serve as the collection site for end users to return the packaging when the contents are consumed. In 2021, Loop revealed its global subscriber network had grown from about a dozen participating companies worldwide in 2020 to 150 in 2022. In addition to Kroger, both independent brands and other packaging end users including Nestle are expanding their reusable packaging options for their part in the program. While reuse systems are well-established for packaging products such as pallets and drums that are typically handled by nonconsumer end users, reusable packaging is also increasingly interesting in consumer markets due to the potential sustainability benefits, according to a news release from The Freedonia Group, an international industrial research company and division of Marketresearch.com. Based on the company’s collection of packaging studies, the recent release noted: According to the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, converting 20% of global plastic packaging into reusable packaging represents a $10 billion business opportunity. When end users reuse the packaging as intended, these items are less likely to enter solid waste streams (whether recycling or composting facilities, or the landfill), resulting in a reduction of total packaging waste. In addition, recirculated packaging reduces the overall material requirements of packaging production as fewer new products are needed. While recirculated packaging is most common in food and beverage categories, it is also seeing increased use in personal care and household items, as well as in e-commerce, according to the release. For instance, in 2021, major shipping concerns including FedEx Express and InPost, introduced reusable e-commerce packaging solutions across multiple European markets that could translate to the U.S. market. walgreens_how_it_works_2_final.png a store in a library In addition to its Kroger partnership, Loop is also launching its products in select Duane Reade stores, owned by Walgreens Boots Alliance, in the greater New York metro area later this year. “Walgreens is excited about this opportunity to help consumers purchase sustainably packaged products and contribute to a healthier planet," Lauren Brindley, Walgreens group vice president of beauty and personal care, said in a Loop news release. "Innovative collaborations with partners like Loop are critical to solving the complex issue of reducing single-use plastics. Our customers look to us to innovate so that together we can reduce waste and increase re-use.”

TerraCycle’s Loop makes US debut in Portland, Oregon

By: Gabrielle Saulsbery February 24, 2022 7:25 am
Loop, the circular reuse platform developed by Trenton’s TerraCycle, has partnered with grocery chain The Kroger Co. by offering a selection of products in reusable packaging rather than in single-use plastic. Customers can walk into any of 25 Kroger-owned Fred Meyer stores in the Portland, Ore., metro area and purchase 20-plus products from popular consumer brands packaged in reusable containers. “Loop’s goal has always been to grow, scale and be accessible to consumers around the world,” said Tom Szaky, founder and CEO of TerraCycle and Loop, in a prepared statement. “With the world’s largest retailers bringing Loop to physical brick and mortar locations, we are giving consumers what they’ve been asking for since Loop was introduced in 2019 – the ability to purchase the products they use every day in durable, reusable containers, with the convenience of shopping at their local market.” The Loop assortment includes well-known food and household products from brands such as Cascade, Clorox, Gerber, Nature’s Path, Pantene and Stubb’s, as well as Kroger’s own Simple Truth brand. More brands will be added to the Loop product portfolio in the coming months. “Our focus on innovative solutions as we continue on our Zero Hunger | Zero Waste journey aligns with Loop’s mission to create a convenient circular packaging platform,” said Lisa Zwack, Kroger’s head of sustainability, in a prepared statement. “Customers are increasingly seeking out sustainable products and services that fit their lifestyle, and this collection makes it convenient. As the first grocer in America to offer these products, Kroger is pleased to take another meaningful step toward a world with zero waste.” Customers can purchase Loop-ready products in refillable, reusable containers found in branded displays in participating Fred Meyer stores. After using the products, they can return the empty packaging to the Loop collection bin located at each participating store. Then, Loop will pick up the empty containers to be cleaned, refilled, and made available for purchase by a new customer. Customers will be charged a small packaging deposit upon purchase, and a full refund is given once the package is returned. This is Loop’s U.S. debut. The service has previously launched in France, China and the United Kingdom.

Pantene and Stubb's will be sold in reusable containers at some Kroger stores

Danielle Wiener-Bronner byline
By Danielle Wiener-BronnerCNN Business

New York (CNN Business)If you walk into one of 25 Fred Meyer stores in the Portland area this week, you'll find something unusual.

Gathered together at the end of an aisle will be an eclectic assortment of about 20 products, including shampoo and dish soap, barbecue sauce, granola and more. The items are made by well-known consumer brands like Pantene, Seventh Generation, Stubb's and Nature's Path.
But instead of their usual packaging, these products come in glass, aluminum or heavy-duty plastic. And after you buy them, you have to bring those packages back.
The items are part of a new partnership between Kroger (KR), which owns Fred Meyer grocery stores, and Loop, a platform that partners with brands and retailers to sell mainstream products in reusable packages.
Loop is launching in 25 Kroger stores in the Portland metro area.
Loop is launching in 25 Kroger stores in the Portland metro area.
As consumers become increasingly concerned about plastic pollution and sustainability, companies are ramping up their environmental pledges. Moving from disposable to reusable packaging could help prevent more waste from piling up in landfills. But before they go all-in on such initiatives, retailers want to know if customers will buy into that solution, which requires them to fundamentally change their behaviors and spend more.
A test like this can help. "We're eager to understand [consumer] adoption," said Lisa Zwack, Kroger's head of sustainability. "Is it truly something that they're interested in? What makes it palatable to them?"
Here's how it works: Customers who buy the Loop products have to pay for the product, as well as a refundable deposit for the packaging which varies from product to product and can reach up to about $10. Once they've used up the soap or the shampoo or eaten the food, they return the empty container to a bin at a participating store, and get their deposit back.
Loop products will be available at those 25 Fred Meyer locations starting Wednesday. "We anticipate the initial pilot being around six months and then from there, we will determine what any next steps or expansion would look like," Zwack said.
Prices for Loop items are "generally a bit higher than a conventional item," she added, even before the deposit, because they're more niche and therefore costlier to produce, among other reasons.

A slow expansion

Loop launched in 2019 as a global partnership that includes some of the world's largest consumer goods companies. It was founded by Tom Szaky, CEO of the recycling company TerraCycle.
The platform started as an online store where customers could choose from an array of products in reusable containers, have them delivered to their homes, and send the empties back in a special tote. There, too, they had to pay a refundable deposit for each product. Loop worked with companies from Mondelēz (MDLZ) to Nestlé (NSRGY) to develop reusable packages for their products, and coordinated the logistics from shipments to cleaning.
The service, Szaky said, was always meant as something of a test — the real goal is to make reusable packaging as widely available and convenient as possible. Buying items in mainstream retail stores, rather than on a dedicated site, is a step forward.
Customers can return empty containers to dedicated bins at participating Fred Meyer locations.
Customers can return empty containers to dedicated bins at participating Fred Meyer locations.
Loop has closed its online store now that its products are beginning to make their way into retailers across the world, including Carrefour in France, Aeon in Japan, and Tesco in the United Kingdom. Kroger is Loop's first retail partner In the United States.
Reuse initiatives stalled during the pandemic, when companies suspended programs that let people bring their own containers and focused on individually packaged products. Loop felt the impact, as the pandemic snarled supply chains and delayed its launches with companies that sidelined innovation projects to focus on stabilizing their core offerings, Szaky said.
Loop is encouraged by how things are going now, even if its progress is moving slowly. Those international retailers are adding Loop products to more of their stores, although they're still not widely available. Retailers like Walgreens are planning to start selling Loop products this year, Szaky added.

How TerraCycle is partnering with DTC brands on recycling programs

Waste recycling company TerraCycle is becoming a popular solution among DTC brands. TerraCycle, founded in 2001, works with large corporations on recycling mostly plastic waste. Its partners include L’Oréal, PepsiCo, Procter & Gamble and most recently Kroger. Last year, Kroger expanded its recycling program — in which customers could drop off plastic Kroger packaging — to thousands of its private labels products.
In the past month, TerraCycle announced partnerships with two direct-to-consumer startups — underwear brand Parade and sleepwear company Lilysilk. Zachary Dominitz, senior vp of brand partnerships at TerraCycle, said that startups want to work with companies like TerraCycle because they are “resource-challenged,” yet “understand the importance” of reducing waste and recycling. These types of partnerships are an increasingly big part of these DTC brands’ overall sustainability goals, which executives say feed into their branding and marketing efforts. TerraCycle collects and then breaks down waste material, and repurposes the material into everything from home insulation to furniture and bedding. The company makes money by charging companies to operate their consumer-facing recycling programs. In 2020, TerraCycle U.S. reported $25 million in net sales, down 9% from 2019 due to pandemic-related slowdowns. (TerraCycle hasn’t reported 2021 figures yet). The company currently operates in over 20 countries, and has several product collection hubs across the country for quicker customer shipping. TerraCycle has dabbled in upcycling fashion items in the past. In April 2021, the company partnered with footwear brand Teva on recycling customers’ used TevaForever sandals. That month, the company also kicked off a kidswear recycling program with Carter’s, called Kidcycle. But this year, TerraCycle is pushing further into apparel and textile by striking deals with DTC brands.

Why DTC brands are outsourcing recycling

Last week, DTC underwear brand Parade launched Second Life by Parade with TerraCycle. The program allows consumers to recycle any brand of underwear through the program. It’s available via prepaid mailing package, and customers can also drop off their used items at Parade’s New York City store. In exchange, customers receive a 20% off discount on their next Parade purchase. This incentive is similar to H&M’s product drop-off program. “We knew a lot of customers were interested in recycling their old products,” Kerry Steib, vp of brand and impact at Parade said. “But you can’t resell or thrift underwear.” That’s when Parade sought out TerraCycle, Steib said. For a young startup like Parade, the program allows for seamless reverse logistics that make it straightforward for customers to participate, she explained. To create a textile-focused recycling program, Parade worked with TerraCycle on material analysis, as this is both companies’ first national underwear recycling initiative. Fashion and apparel is a new foray for TerraCycle, which required more planning ahead of the program’s launch. Dominitz told Modern Retail that oftentimes in the apparel industry, a lot of material isn’t truly recycled, and so TerraCycle’s R&D team has to assess whether it can be broken down in a sanitary way. Normally, a lot of brands TerraCycle works with have plastic products. However, apparel brands like Parade require specific machinery techniques to completely shred the material. This partnership is one part of Parade’s overall sustainability roadmap, in which the company aims to become climate positive by 2025. This year, Parade joined the Science Based Targets Initiative, an organization with over 1,000 companies setting climate action plans. In 2020, Parade launched its first carbon-neutral underwear, the Universal. This past fall, the company debuted its SuperSoft sleep collection, which it said is made from 95% less water than traditional sleepwear. Parade is continuously looking at other ways to develop products that are easier to upcycle. “The challenge is in creating better recyclable products at the same price point,” Steib said. In early January, DTC sleepwear and bedding brand Lilysilk also launched a recycling program with TerraCycle. The Lilysilk X TerraCycle Recycling Program allows customers to send silk and cashmere products to be recycled. Eligible items include bedding, sleepwear and women’s and men’s apparel. The program is only taking used Lilysilk products for now, but the company is considering expanding it to other brands. Wendy Zhang, marketing lead at Lilysilk, told Modern Retail that the brand realized it needed a partner to go about such a program. “Sustainability is not a one-man show, and it’s hard for one brand to take on,” Zhang said. It’s why the company sought out professional help to break down and recycle the material efficiently. “It doesn’t make a direct impact on our revenue, but we see it as an investment in what the brand stands for,” Zhang said. She added that founder David Wang decided to sign on for a three-year contract instead of testing TerraCycle for one year. Like Parade, product recycling is one part of Lilysilk’s sustainability goals, said Zhang. Lilysilk also tries to reduce waste during production by, for example, using t-shirt cut-offs to make silk accessories. To promote the TerraCycle program, Zhang said Lilysilk is working with its network of influencers. Lilysilk also plans to eventually install TerraCyle drop-off booths at offices and apartment complexes.

TerraCycle’s growing presence

TerraCycle’s Dominitz said the company has seen “an increased interest in our recycling solutions from every segment in the commercial chain.” This is due to the increased awareness around consumer product waste and the impact it has on the environment, Dominitz explained. Jenny Gyllander, founder of product reviews site Thingtesting, previously told Modern Retail that recycling and reselling used products are “positive first steps,” for brands to take to contribute less waste. “[Brands] should be responsible for the products that they put out into the world and think about the full life cycles of where they end up,” she said. But TerraCycle’s solutions also highlight the obstacles surrounding recycling — as evident by a now-settled recent lawsuit against TerraCycle over alleged opaque practices.   As TerraCycle grows, its pitch to both larger and smaller brands is that developing a cohesive recycling program helps companies achieve multiple goals. “This translates to more waste collected and recycled, a bigger positive impact and a better story for your [companies’] stakeholders,” Dominitz said.

How implementing reuse systems can impact cities

By Tom Szaky December 10, 2021
Image via Iryna Inshyna on Shutterstock
Humankind itself doesn’t cause climate change. Rather, it’s the way it relates to nature. Indigenous practices, for example, have long sustained balance between human development and nature’s activities. However, on the road to industrialization, advancements that increased productivity disrupted that balance, including many linear (take-make-waste) practices that drive climate change. With the urbanization and the formation of cities, demands on these improved systems only increased. The breakthroughs in mass production, material sourcing and transportation that significantly and efficiently cut the time, money and human labor needed to produce and distribute goods allowed for wide and surged consumption of commodity items. This came to a head in the 1950s, when the appetite for convenience, lowered costs and a culture of consumerism really took off. When single-use and disposability (specifically of plastic, a synthetic material nature cannot absorb) exploded to enable fast-moving, on-the-go lifestyles, recycling and reintegration of material did not keep pace. As a result, about 8 billion tons of plastic have been produced since the 1950s, and more than 300 million tons are produced each year. At best, 9 percent of all plastic ever made has been recycled. The rest has been landfilled, incinerated or littered; these practices generate billions of tons of the greenhouse gases that cause climate change. Cities, with growing populations and demands on resources, exacerbate the waste crisis and may be a key focus area to help change course away. Cities occupy just 3 percent of the Earth’s surface but house more than half of the world’s population, consume over 75 percent of global resources, and generate 60 to 80 percent of human-induced greenhouse gas emissions. Urbanization is only increasing, with 70 percent of the global population expected to live in cities by 2050.  
Cities, with growing populations and demands on resources, exacerbate the waste crisis and may be a key focus area to help change course away.
With this, cities are also at the forefront of suffering from its scale. Waste management systems fail to meet need in developed and underdeveloped markets alike, overwhelmed by cost and insufficient infrastructure. Public health and safety are huge issues where this is especially lacking, contributing to the ongoing impacts on air, water, soil and overall quality of life for residents. Reuse and durability-based systems may provide unexplored pathways to address these challenges with positive economics; reuse systems are estimated to present a $10 billion business opportunity if only 20 percent of single-use packaging today were converted, creating jobs, cutting costs of managing waste and litter and driving value with new revenue streams. Where business goes, change tends to come, but strong support from city functions is essential to driving reuse forward. For example, the Tokyo Metro Government (TMG) was absolutely instrumental to the successful launches and expansions for our Loop reuse platform in Japan. Involved in promotion at the early stages, the city helped fund pilot testing and consumer surveys in our reusable bento lunch containers project. With their own commitments to circular economy and waste reduction targets, TMG aligns business with the environment, and is even attracted to the fact that our platform engages competing brands. Building upon the existing long-term relationship with TerraCycle Japan through recycling programs with municipalities and schools, the clear and consistent support from the start afforded credibility and footing for the platform in a new market. As the governor of the city of Tokyo stated in a recent press conference, "Large cities in developed countries such as Tokyo can make a significant impact on the global economy by playing a leading role," noting reuse was standard in the region for glass bottles for beer, sake and more just 30 years ago. Cities are complex ecosystems in themselves, so a "buy anywhere, return anywhere" ecosystem for reusables that makes it easy for consumers to access, businesses to sell and cities to benefit from is as much a feat of design as a reimagined container or durable package. This is a top priority for Loop as we expand to new markets and optimize our offerings. Today for grocery we have Aeon in Japan, Tesco in the United Kingdom, Carrefour in France and Walgreens and Kroger’s Fred Meyer banner coming soon in the United States, and the biggest names in QSR (quick service restaurant): McDonald’s was the first to pilot the model in select stores in the U.K., followed by Tim Horton’s in Canada, then Burger King in several countries in the coming months. With so much ground still to break (reuse exists today across the modern economy, but the models are incompatible — think beverages in Germany to propane tanks in the U.S.), recommendations and guardrails for cities can help minimize risk, maximize short-term returns and steer the way for scaled, widespread adoption and impact for reuse. Collaborative working frameworks for a fully implemented reuse system — this is the purpose of the World Economic Forum Consumers Beyond Waste (CBW) initiative’s community papers, released in conjunction with the World Economic Forum Sustainable Development Impact Summit during U.N. General Assembly week earlier this year.  
Cities have policy (regulation), infrastructure and procurement resources they can use to engage the public and incentivize actions that benefit reuse.
Featuring Design GuidelinesSafety Guidelines and The City Playbook, the documents offer a holistic view for reuse in different environments, and are authored by a variety of stakeholders for a less wasteful future. I am one of them, along with city officials, retailers and many more leaders from the public and private sector. Enabling manufacturers to produce reusables that can be sold at any retailer for a consumer to buy and return anywhere — safely, affordably and conveniently — in their local cities requires support from those cities. Cities have policy (regulation), infrastructure and procurement resources they can use to engage the public and incentivize actions that benefit reuse. It’s the consensus of the above papers that some of the greatest challenges cities face are funding, infrastructure and institutional barriers, so pushing initiatives through must include answering big questions about viability and benefit. Who is reuse good for, in the long and short term, and how do we protect our citizens and commerce during the learning periods? This is key for continued development of standards for cities that are socially equitable and environmentally positive, and help to align their activities with the global ecosystem.

Scaling Reuse Must Include Consensus on Safety, Design, Considerations for Cities

Cities are complex ecosystems that both exacerbate and suffer from the scale of packaging waste. Standards for key areas of design, safety and city programming minimize risk, drive collaboration and provide trustworthy information for stewarding game-changing reuse strategies.
Our society has a longstanding relationship with and dependency on single-use products. Businesses and consumers alike are accustomed to its virtues of cost and convenience, making everyday items accessible to more people than ever before. But because of this reliance and focus on a system that takes, makes and wastes products after one use, few guidelines or blueprints for viable, sustainable alternatives — including reuse — exist in a usable format. Reuse models are growing across the modern economy, but they are fragmented such that they cannot achieve impact of scale. Without foundational guidelines to drive collaboration, standardization and defining of best practices, it would be near-impossible for new and emerging reuse models to effectively implement or accelerate for impact. But there’s a case for doing so. Reuse systems can reduce plastic pollution and greenhouse gas emissions; and they are estimated to present a $10 billion business opportunity if only 20 percent of single-use packaging today were converted to reuse. So, how do we ensure everyone gets what they need out of their products — without the waste? Many would argue that ending packaging waste begins with design. Modern packages are lightweight, inexpensive and high-function (the world is used to the spouts, resealable closures, and easy-open tops of single-use containers), and literally designed to go in the trash. Defining the specifications of a package that can be physically and systematically reused is one of the first things to do. Then, determining exactly how many times said package can be cycled around (including collection, cleaning and refilling for the next person to enjoy) before it comes out superior to single-use demonstrates the value. The fewer times, the better; but a recommendation from an industry expert or experienced practitioner in the space can help businesses at different stages in their journey consider how and when reuse will work for them. There are a lot of ideas and concepts out there; but with so much work to do in solving single-use plastic waste, clear and consistent guardrails for reuse will steer the way for scaled, widespread adoption and impact. This is the purpose of the World Economic Forum (WEF) Consumers Beyond Waste (CBW) initiative’s community papers, released in conjunction with the WEF’s Sustainable Development Impact Summit during UN General Assembly week earlier this year. Featuring Design GuidelinesSafety Guidelines and The City Playbook, the documents are authored by a variety of contributors with a stake in the race to a less wasteful world; I am one of them — along with city officials, quality-assurance experts, retailers and many more leaders from the public and private sector. The papers offer a holistic view for reuse in different environments, as well as the different entry points for stakeholders along the supply chain. Offering recommendations based on experience, Loop has our own design guidelines for brands and manufacturers entering the platform — we recommend a product be able to withstand a minimum of 10 reuse cycles to qualify, and be recyclable into itself at the end of its life. Through this approach we have seen tremendous innovation, not just in sustainability but also in packaging design. Through reverse logistics, it’s possible to recover durable packaging forms in combinations of materials that improve functionality above and beyond the convenience of many single-use packages, such as a resealable food container or spring-loaded soap pump. Designing for reuse also includes the architecture of the systems packages flow through. Where Loop is a coalition of major consumer product companies and leading retailers working with trusted vendors to transport, clean, store and refill containers, it's a matter of front and backend design to enable a manufacturer to produce reusables that can be sold at any retailer for a consumer to buy and return anywhere, safely and conveniently. Where today’s largest scaled reuse model is pre-fill, which allows the consumer to buy filled products on a store shelf and return the empties into a bin (think beverages in Germany or propane tanks in the US), the challenge is that the models are incompatible: Empty propane tanks cannot be returned to the same location as an empty beer keg, and vice versa. Creating a “buy anywhere, return anywhere” ecosystem for reusables will make it easy for consumers to access, and businesses to sell. This, too, is a feat of design. Residents in Loop markets can now enter their favorite retailers and find a part of the store dedicated to reuse. With purchase, a deposit is paid, which is refunded in full upon return to any Loop retailer, putting this “waste” into a designated reuse bin versus a trash can or recycling bin. Just before the community papers I mentioned earlier, CBW released the Future of Reusable Consumption Models report, which outlined aspects of a “successful, large-scale, system-wide reuse paradigm.” One of these is consumer experience, where people have access to a variety of reusables that can compete with disposables on a number of scales, including convenience. People purchase consumables in a variety of settings, so it's important they have access to a variety of experiences. For grocery, we have Tesco in the UK; Carrefour in France; Aeon in Japan; and Walgreens and Kroger’s Fred Meyer banner coming soon in the US; and the biggest names in QSR (quick service restaurant): McDonald’s was the first to pilot the model in select stores in the UK, with Tim Horton’s in Canada and Burger King in several countries to follow. Which brings us to the matter of public health and safety, which have a great deal to do with packaging and systems design. Consumers need to know a system that circulates containers is safe and sanitary. Different product categories have different health and safety requirements — the food and beverage industry tends to have stricter standards than body care and cosmetics, for example. Packaging durability is a huge factor in designing for safety, as it impacts cleaning processes, degradation, and consumer safety and ease of use. If a package is cleaned 10 times at a certain temperature, materials must not prematurely degrade aesthetically or functionally; and if the type of material is one that might break with the consumer or along the route, design or logistics must allow it to do so safely; communications can support proper handling and education. Government plays a role in overseeing regulations for public health. As the Governor of the City of Tokyo stated in Loop and the World Economic Forum’s recent United Nations week press conference, “Large cities in developed countries, such as Tokyo, can make a significant impact on the global economy by playing a leading role,” noting reuse was standard in the region for glass bottles for beer, sake and more just 30 years ago. Cities are complex ecosystems that both exacerbate and suffer from the scale of the waste crisis. In the City Playbook, CBW notes some of the greatest challenges cities face are funding, infrastructure and institutional barriers; so, the consensus to pushing initiatives through includes seeking ways to answer big questions about viability and benefit. This is key to developing a roadmap for cities that is socially equitable, environmentally positive and safe. Examples of actions cities might take for the short term include aligning reuse with existing objectives (i.e. job creation and economic development) or testing reusables for city government administration (i.e. food service and cafeteria for public buildings), so as to engage policymakers, NGOs, local businesses, media, residents and the many other internal and external stakeholders towards the vision for a circular city. Points of consensus are milestones in the journey out of the waste crisis. Agreement on key areas of design, safety and city programming minimizes risk, drives collaboration and provides changemakers trustworthy information for stewarding reuse strategies and program development within organizations. There’s so much room for innovation; but to bring them to scale, actors must come together over a shared vision, with the resources to back it up.

The Future of Food Shopping Might Be Plastic-Free

A new partnership between the nation’s largest grocery chain and a reusable packaging company could be a sign that waste-reduction efforts are finally moving past the pandemic-induced plastics boom. image.png
Two years ago, efforts to kick the country’s plastic addiction were on fire. Municipalities around the country were implementing plastic bag taxes, while mainstream shoppers embraced reusable grocery bags and flocked to the bulk aisles for foods like beans and nuts.
However, all that came to a halt when stopping the spread of COVID-19 became the country’s top priority. Almost overnight, grocery stores closed their bulk-shopping sections, coffee shops stopped filling reusable coffee mugs, and individually wrapped everything took center stage. Now, signs are emerging that the fight against plastic is getting back on track. One of the most notable of those signs came from Kroger last month, when the nation’s largest grocery chain announced it was expanding an online trial with Loop, an online platform for refillable packaging, to 25 Fred Meyer store locations in Portland, Oregon. While consumer reuse models “got punched in the face” by the pandemic, Loop’s Tom Szaky said the demand is still there, and mainstream grocery stores are going to need to find a way to meet it. Kroger plans to offer a separate Loop aisle in these stores. The products, which will include a mix of items in food and other categories, can be bought in glass containers or aluminum boxes. When they’re empty, customers return the containers to the store to be cleaned and used again. Originally scheduled for this fall, the launch has been postponed to early 2022 because of supply chain challenges, but a spokesperson said they will continue to work with their brand partners to consider items that can be added to expand the program over time. The partnership is a heartening sign after a tough year, said Tom Szaky, CEO and founder of TerraCycle, the company behind the Loop initiative. “Overall, I was very worried that the pandemic would shift the conversation away from waste,” Szaky told Civil Eats. “It didn’t slow down. In fact, the environmental movement’s only gotten stronger.” While consumer reuse models—reusable grocery bags, refillable coffee mugs—“got punched in the face,” he said, it was mainly because retailers stopped allowing them for safety reasons. And while Loop’s growth was slowed by the pandemic, it was for the same factors that upended many companies’ plans—not because interest was drying out, said Szaky. The demand is still there, he adds, and he’s bullish on the idea that mainstream grocery stores are going to need to find a way to meet it. The Kroger–Loop partnership could be the first true test of this theory. It’s the latest in a steady string of new partnerships for Loop, but until now all of the company’s U.S. packaging partners have been in other categories, such as cosmetics and cleaning products. Loop does work with a number of food companies outside the country, including Woolworths in New Zealand, Tesco in the U.K., Aeon in Japan, and Carrefour in France. Szaky says they’re also working with a grocery store in France to bring reusable packaging to fish and meat. Loop, which also works with Walgreens in the U.S. and fast food chains McDonald’s, Burger King, and Canada-based Tim Hortons, expects nearly 200 stores and restaurants worldwide to be selling products in reusable packages by the first quarter of 2022, according to the Associated Press, up from a dozen stores in Paris at the end of last year. Some experts in the space are convinced that more will follow. “It’s just a matter of time before other companies come on board,” says Colleen Henn, founder of All Good Goods, a plastic-free pantry subscription business based in San Clemente, California that sells food in reusable glass jars and paper bags. “Once somebody does it, people start to see, ‘Oh, avoiding single-use plastic is] not that complicated.’ Because it’s really not.” She would know. Henn didn’t spend the last year adapting her business; she first launched her seemingly improbable business model during—and really because of—the pandemic. She had grown frustrated that the country’s waste-reduction initiatives were falling by the wayside. “I went online and tried to find a store that shipped food to your door without plastic, and I couldn’t find it. So I created it,” said Henn. All Good Goods specializes in pantry goods like beans and pasta, nuts and dried fruit, and growth has been strong and steady since the launch. She increasingly fields phone calls from other stores looking for advice on how to avoid plastic in their operations, and as she engages with more companies, she’s optimistic that she will have a trickle-up effect within the industry. “I reach out to brands [we’re considering carrying] and see what their wholesale options are; if they’re not paper-based, if they’re not backyard-biodegradable, we move on,” said Henn. image.png“My theory is that I’m doing my job in telling big companies that this is what consumers want. We’re just a drop in the bucket, I fully acknowledge that, but we’re doing our part to communicate this need and this want from consumers,” she said. “We’re constantly urging bigger food brands to offer a bulk wholesale option.” The growth in concern from customers—driven largely by the increase in public awareness of the world’s waste crisis and plastic’s long-term impacts like microplastic pollution in the oceans, in addition to mounting evidence about health impacts from substances like phthalates and bisphenols that can leach from plastic into food—is clear. In 2019, Trader Joe’s announced that it would reduce plastic in its stores. Now, according to the sustainability page on the national chain’s website, the packaging for more than 150 products in store now uses more recycled or “sustainably sourced materials,” or have fewer excess components. A spokesperson for the store also told Civil Eats that “customers can expect an update sometime in early 2022.” Whole Foods Market, which some expect to lead the industry on waste reduction given its positioning on sustainability, declined an interview for this story. But a spokesperson said the retailer has launched a reusable container pilot in response to customer interest. In two stores in Boulder, Colorado, the spokesperson said customers can pay a deposit for a reusable glass container, fill it with prepared or bulk foods, and return the container after use for the store to inspect, clean and sanitize. (Whole Foods also piloted a reusable container program in San Rafael, California, in 2019, but that has since ended.)
When Whole Foods stopped using disposable plastic grocery bags in 2008, the company was a national leader among national grocery chains. However, it continues to use plastic bags and packaging within the store for foods like produce and meat. The company spokesperson said they have reduced the waste footprint of those items but declined to say whether those efforts have reduced the company’s total plastic footprint. The grocer may have also introduced plastic in new places throughout the store in recent years, such as the safety seal on some yogurt containers, which was transitioned from foil to plastic, but the spokesperson would not comment, nor would they say whether there are plans to scale the pilot or implement any other reusable systems in the future. Jerusha Klemperer, director of FoodPrint, a non-profit dedicated to research and education on food production practices, reflected on the shift from companies like Trader Joe’s, and the consumer pressure on companies like Whole Foods. “The only reason [companies like] Trader Joe’s would make that commitment is that they heard customers complaining. I do think there’s evidence that people want more of this—but they have to see it offered, and they can’t have to work extra hard to make it happen.” That is the philosophy that Szaky has applied to Loop, and what makes the Kroger announcement so significant. By designing refillable systems to resemble the traditional shopping experience as closely as possible, proponents say, they are more likely to attract more customers to sign on. “It’s exciting because it marks the first major step as retailers take the reins. It also is a really conducive way to do reuse. Customers can go to Kroger, buy a product, and on their next trip drop off the empties,” said Szaky. “For reuse to grow, it has to be as convenient as disposable;  customers need to be able to buy it anywhere and return anywhere. The more robust and developed that network is, the stronger it becomes.” Plastic-free vs. Waste-free
Loop’s expansion, while noteworthy for waste reduction advocates, points to some underlying questions that companies, consumers, and regulators still need to grapple with. Loop itself does not design packaging options. It leaves that to the companies making the products, and steps in to approve specific packaging types for durability once they’ve been developed (and it does offer some hand-holding for that process). Loop’s lineup includes a lot of glass and aluminum, but it also includes plastic packaging at a time when many scientists and environmentalists have grown increasingly vocal about the need to shift away from plastic entirely.
“It’s not, to me, about plastic or no plastic. It’s about the role of recycling, degradability, reuse—and it’s the systems we need to look at, not necessarily what’s at play on top of the systems,” he said. “So many companies are interested in compostable packaging, but the thing that no one’s solving for is that most [municipal composters] don’t want them.”
Compostable packages aren’t a great solution on the production side either, if they’re made from plants grown in industrial monocrop systems like corn, said Klemperer. Many types of paper-based packaging have their own problems, such as being lined with PFAS or associated with deforestation. More fundamentally, all of these replacements perpetuate disposable culture and do little to encourage behavior change, which experts say is the only real solution. Fortunately, Klemperer thinks that where traction is gaining most is in refillable packaging. Where she would also like to see rapid action across the industry, she said, is in the reduction of excess packaging—produce pre-packaged on Styrofoam trays wrapped in plastic, for example. “It seems like there are certain products where eliminating packaging would be the easiest, lowest-hanging fruit,” she said. Why Is Food Behind the Refillable Curve?
It’s unclear why food has lagged behind products such as bath and cleaning products in the adoption of refillable and plastic-free packaging. But it’s likely in part due to heightened regulations, for food safety in general and COVID in particular.
“We had to spend time with the health department training them on how we can do this without plastic, because nobody else was doing it,” said All Good Goods’ Henn, whose background in water quality science may have proved to be an advantage. But it was ultimately achievable: “What I kept coming back to is that we were just returning to the old way of doing things. We’re big fans of the milkman, and we’re basically trying to recreate that online,” she said.
“A lot of very large food companies are talking about plastic, but they need to rethink how they’re doing business. I think we should be a little inconvenienced, at this point, for the greater good.”
She thinks that food safety, though, can’t be the only reason that food companies are lagging behind others on packaging. More intangible factors are the larger hurdles: Disposability is embedded into the modern supply chain, and adoption of reusable packaging requires a fundamental shift in mindset from corporate leadership and a major overhaul of logistics within the supply chain, said Henn. The fact that it is not easier to find bulk plastic-free pantry products is a perfect example, she said—her entire business essentially relies on ordering products at the same scale that restaurants do, which is nothing new for the supply chain. Yet many large food companies still can’t accommodate her plastic-free criteria. At the same time, she has found companies that make it possible—Lundberg, for example, delivers bulk rice in paper bags. And some wholesalers even collect and refill their own bulk packaging. “That’s the thing,” said Henn. “A lot of very large food companies are talking about plastic, but they need to rethink how they’re doing business.” She’s clear that will not always be an easy task, but she adds: “I think we should be a little inconvenienced, at this point, for the greater good.”

Loop’s revolutionary reusable packaging system is coming to a bunch of big stores

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.

Kroger Announces Reusable Packaging Platform

When The Kroger Co. published its 2021 Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) report in late August 2021, the company  also released a statement about how it plans to further integrate its people, planet and systems approach into lines of business and develop a shared-value framework that unlocks economic opportunity. Packaging manufacturers have a key opportunity to help Kroger achieve its goals as many revolve around packaging initiatives as well as waste and resource reduction. The packaging and converting community would also be wise to keep an eye on Kroger’s new partnership with Loop, as Kroger’s outsized influence in the grocery sector can propel Loop’s reusable packaging program into the mainstream. Kroger will be Loop’s exclusive U.S. grocery partner and the grocer says that the resulting reusable packaging platform will play a large role in Kroger’s zero-waste vision by reducing single-use plastics in the environment. Other packaging initiatives spotlighted in the report include the use of 100% recyclable, compostable and/or reusable Our Brands packaging by 2030. Innovative and effective packaging can also help Kroger achieve its goal of achieving zero retail food to landfills by 2025. "As a grocery retailer, Kroger is committed to advancing positive impacts for people and our planet and to creating more resilient global systems," Rodney McMullen, Kroger's chairman and CEO, said in the company statement.