Posts with term Kroger X

Plastic waste is everywhere in grocery stores. Can they cut down?

Stores like Aldi and Trader Joe’s are trying to decrease excess plastic, but experts say it’s not enough. a woman and child exam plastic-wrapped vegetables in a supermarket Plastic packaging can be both a blessing and a curse. It’s usually deployed to protect food, preserve freshness, and prevent spoilage and waste, which are all good things. At the same time, supermarkets can’t seem to help themselves from overpackaging items to the point of perversion, like a single banana — which already comes in its own Mother Nature-approved wrapper — plated on a Styrofoam tray and shrink-wrapped in even more plastic. Other forms of plastic appear completely gratuitous. Do pasta boxes really need tiny film windows for previewing the noodles? Supermarkets aren’t the only source of packaging waste, but they’re a major contributor. They’re also where most people interact with brands like Nestlé, which sells more than 1 billion products a day, 98 percent of which come in throwaway formats. When the Break Free from Plastic initiative audited more than 187,000 pieces of trash from 42 countries across six continents last October, the names that reared their heads most frequently were Coca-Cola, PepsiCo, and — yes — Nestlé. Supermarkets have been promoting recycling as a way out of this morass, but it hasn’t been enough, according to environmentalists, who say that single-use plastic needs to be purged from the get-go. It’s a concept that a growing breed of “zero-waste” grocers are experimenting with, too. “If your bathtub was overflowing, you wouldn’t reach for a mop to clean it up; you would turn it off at the source,” says David Pinsky, an anti-plastics campaigner at Greenpeace. “And that’s what we need to do on plastics.” LESS THAN 14 PERCENT OF THE NEARLY 86 MILLION TONS OF PLASTIC PACKAGING PRODUCED GLOBALLY EACH YEAR IS RECYCLED The fact of the matter is we’re not doing a good enough job of recapturing plastics, which are made from nonrenewable resources such as crude oil and natural gas and contribute to climate change throughout their life cycle. Less than 14 percent of the nearly 86 million tons of plastic packaging produced globally each year is recycled, and of that, only 2 percent goes into high-value applications. The rest is landfilled, incinerated, or buffeted into the environment, where it clogs up the seas, the beaches, and the digestive tracts of sea life. Much of the trouble with recycling plastic is it’s “incredibly finicky,” says Darby Hoover, a senior resource specialist at the Natural Resources Defense Council. Different municipalities accept different types of plastic, and the little triangle with the number at the bottom of a plastic container — if you can even find it — refers to the type of resin and not if or how it can be recycled. Sometimes, despite a recycling facility’s best efforts, a plastics stream becomes contaminated, which impairs sellability. But even if a facility does get it right, there isn’t always a market to funnel all the different types of plastic. “What’s been happening with China, in particular, is that it was America’s No. 1 buyer of plastic and paper, but now it’s saying that the stuff we send to them needs a much lower contamination rate, and we can’t do that,” Hoover says. Complicating the matter is complex packaging such as Tetra Pak cartons — the type plant-based milks, soups, and broths come in — and Capri Sun-type juice pouches — which contain different layers of material fused together — are even more difficult to reclaim. “So they’ve got aluminum and different types of plastic, then a bunch of glue that holds it all together,” Hoover says. “It’s very, very hard to separate out all those materials and figure out how to recycle any of them.” THE GLOBAL PLASTIC PACKAGING MARKET IS EXPECTED TO SOAR TO $412 BILLION IN 2024 The problem isn’t going away anytime soon. Plastic packaging is a booming industry with a powerful lobbying presence that can block lawmakers from enacting bans on plastic bags, Styrofoam containers, and other landfill fodder. Fueled by growing demand for flexible and functional food and beverage packaging, the global plastic packaging market is expected to soar from a value of $344 billion today to $412 billion in 2024. We throw away most single-use plastics within minutes of use, yet they can persist in the environment for 1,000 years. “We do need to fundamentally rethink the way that we use plastics,” says Sara Wingstrand, project manager of the Ellen MacArthur Foundation’s New Plastics Economy initiative, which has rallied more than 350 businesses, governments, and other organizations, including Coca-Cola, PepsiCo, Unilever, Walmart, and Target, in 2018 to support the elimination of unnecessary plastic packaging and transition the rest to reusable, recyclable, and compostable versions by 2025. “Recycling is a part of the solution, but it’s becoming evident that there is no way that we can recycle our way out of the plastic pollution crisis.” One key hurdle is that supermarkets are often blissfully unaware of how much plastic they’re employing. The material is relatively cheap and it makes up a fraction of a business’s operating expenses, Wingstrand says. And the thing is, you can’t reduce what you haven’t measured. Some supermarkets are trying, though. In South Africa, the supermarket chain Pick and Pay is trialing packaging-free “nude zones,” where customers can bring their own containers for fruits and vegetables that are laser-etched with the supplier code and sell-by date in lieu of plastic stickers. Similar “food in the nude” campaigns are taking place at grocers in New Zealand, which banned single-use plastic bags in July. This past April, Metro, a supermarket chain in Quebec, became Canada’s first major grocer to allow its customers to fill up their own reusable containers with meat, seafood, pastries, and ready-to-eat meals. https://cdn.vox-cdn.com/thumbor/u-Xqw_V0nRmznEIr5ktTg8u209A=/0x0:7200x5141/1200x0/filters:focal(0x0:7200x5141):no_upscale()/cdn.vox-cdn.com/uploads/chorus_asset/file/19235711/GettyImages_1168981697.jpg Shoppers examine bags of salad at a PriceChopper supermarket. Robert Nickelsberg/Getty Images The United Kingdom, where a “polluter’s tax” on any single-use packaging that doesn’t contain at least 30 percent recycled materials is poised to debut in April 2022, is also making strides. Its major supermarkets have committed to a UK Plastics Pact to design out “problematic or unnecessary” single-use packaging by 2025. Waitrose is piloting refill stations at select stores for pasta, wine and beer, and detergent, and Sainsbury’s plans to introduce refillable packaging “at scale.” As part of its pledge to use only reusable, recyclable, or compostable packaging by 2025, Aldi has banned black plastic trays, which near-infrared sensors at recycling centers have trouble picking out from a sorting belt. Tesco, Britain’s largest supermarket, has convened with its suppliers to examine solutions that may require a design or materials overhaul. It’s even mulling banishing brands that use “excessive or inappropriate” packaging. It should come as no surprise that supermarkets in the US — bolstered by America’s corporate-friendly policies — have lagged behind. “Europe is probably more favorably predisposed to regulation and restrictions,” says Neil Saunders, managing director of retail at GlobalData, an international data-analytics consultancy. (Case in point? The European Union has a roadmap for making all plastic on the European market recyclable by 2030.) “Whereas the US is much more focused on freedoms of companies and individuals, and government is probably a lot more reluctant to legislate on certain things.” “THE [US] GOVERNMENT IS PROBABLY A LOT MORE RELUCTANT TO LEGISLATE ON CERTAIN THINGS” That isn’t to say there has been zero progress. Target is working on ditching expanded polystyrene foam packaging from its own-brand packaging by 2022. Select products in its Everspring line of home essentials are packaged in containers with up to 100 percent post-consumer recycled plastic. Costco has eschewed PVC clamshell packaging, which is not recyclable and can leach toxic chemicals when it degrades, for recyclable PET or recycled PET made from water bottles. Straws and Styrofoam meat trays are now verboten at Whole Foods, which is also replacing its hard plastic rotisserie chicken containers with bags that use roughly 70 percent less plastic, a spokesperson says. Walmart, the world’s No.1 brick-and-mortar retailer, aims by 2025 to incorporate at least 20 percent post-consumer recycled content in its own-brand packaging, which will also be 100 percent recyclable, reusable, or industrially compostable. In terms of general merchandise packaging, Walmart says it will work with suppliers to nix PVC by 2020. But a June report by Greenpeace, which rated 20 leading US supermarkets on their efforts to eliminate single-use plastic, found a universal failure to “adequately address the plastic pollution crisis they are contributing to.” In fact, no supermarket scored more than 35 out of a possible 100 points. Even the American iteration of Aldi, which rose to No. 1 for setting out a plastics reduction target and plan, needs to ramp up its ambitions, according to Pinsky. Since 90 percent of the products on its shelves are private label, rather than from name-brand suppliers, Aldi has a bigger say in its packaging decisions. “Aldi’s only committed by 2025 to reduce its plastic footprint by 15 percent,” he says. “So while some supermarkets are starting to take small steps in the right direction, none are acting with the urgency or the ambition that’s needed to truly tackle the plastic pollution crisis.” Transparency, Pinsky says, is a sticking issue. No supermarket, for instance, publicly reports its plastic footprint, which makes it difficult for the public to evaluate progress year over year. Time-bound, comprehensive plans are still few and far between. And some grocers are merely substituting one single-use material for another, as in the case of Trader Joe’s, which drew plaudits earlier this year for plans to strip its stores of 1 million pounds of plastic by removing plastic bags from its checkout counters, switching to compostable produce bags, and replacing Styrofoam trays with recyclable alternatives. But plant-based bioplastics, which stores increasingly favor, can still contribute to microplastic pollution if released into the environment, Pinksy notes, and molded fiberboard could harbor cancer-causing chemicals. “WE NEED TO SHIFT OUR CULTURE BACK TO MORE REUSE SYSTEMS” “It’s clear that recycling or substituting materials is not going to solve this problem; we need to see a focused reduction of plastic production in the first place,” he adds. “We need to shift our culture back to more reuse systems.” One result of the plastics backlash is the idea of the zero-waste supermarket. Brianne Miller, a marine biologist, was so sickened by the swaths of plastic that greeted her in different dive sites around the world — even the remote ones — that she left academia to co-found Nada, a zero-waste grocer that is not only the first of its kind in downtown Vancouver but in all of Canada. At Nada, everything, including fruits, vegetables, meats, grains, cheeses, nut butters, and sauces, is sold loose. Customers can load up their own jars, containers, and drawstring bags, or pick up cleaned and sanitized ones that are available for sale. Depending on what they need, they can pick up a barrel of crackers or just a handful. But customers are just one piece of Nada’s master plan; the store also works with its suppliers to deliver their products free of disposable packaging. “In many instances, suppliers are dropping off products every couple days or every week, so it’s quite easy, for example, to have things like coffee beans dropped off in a reusable Rubbermaid tote,” Miller says. “And then when the next shipment comes in, the container goes back to the supplier, and then it’s refilled and reused again, so we have this circular loop of containers that are coming and going from our store.” Nada sources as close to the store as possible, which helps with the minimalist approach, since products don’t have to be coddled across vast distances. “Instead of shipping cucumbers from across the country, we have the local farm, so that packaging isn’t necessary in the first place,” she says. Zero-waste supermarkets, especially full-service ones like Nada, may seem like an answer to our plastic packaging problem, except they’re still a rarity. In.gredients, an East Austin business that billed itself as America’s first zero-waste grocery store, shuttered permanently in 2018. There is a smattering of others in London, Berlin, Amsterdam, Stockholm, and Hong Kong, but they are largely boutique outfits with narrow aisles and more hipster appeal than options. For the vast majority of people, single-use plastics are still an inescapable aspect of their shopping reality. One other solution is a return to the old “milkman delivery” model of yore. The brainchild of TerraCycle, a New Jersey-based “waste solution development” firm, Loop offers popular products — think Häagen-Dazs ice cream, Hidden Valley ranch dressing, Tropicana orange juice, and Quaker Oats oatmeal — in durable glass and aluminum tubs designed to be returned, cleaned, and refilled. Nestlé, Procter & Gamble, Unilever, PepsiCo, Coca-Cola, and Danone are just some of the marquee names that have thrown in their support. Loop has also roped in a number of retail partners, including Kroger and Walgreens in the United States, Tesco in the United Kingdom, and Carrefour in France. “It’s super important to us to meet consumers where they’re already shopping,” says Heather Crawford, Loop’s vice president of marketing and e-commerce. Unlike with bulk or zero-waste supermarkets, customers don’t have to sling their own containers or wash them, which could help adoption. “People want a better, more sustainable option with less waste, but they’re not always willing to change their behaviors to get there,” she says. “Loop removes all of the friction from the systems that exist in the current zero-waste solution.” Tory Gundelach, vice president of retail insights at the consulting agency Kantar, sees a growing desire from customers for forward-thinking efforts such as Loop. “Younger shoppers, particularly, are becoming more attuned to the effect of their actions on the environment or society as a whole,” she says. “Shoppers increasingly want to see the retailers and brands they engage reflect their own personal values.” Nearly two-thirds of millennials and Gen Z-ers say they prefer “brands that have a point of view and stand for something,” Kantar’s research has found. And therein lies supermarkets’ business proposition. Reducing packaging through resource-efficient design or losing it altogether can save money on raw materials and shipping costs — always a plus for the bottom line — but it can also win over a demographic that is only going to grow into its spending power. “Shoppers are telling us, ‘I’m putting my dollars against the retailers and the brands that feel like they have values that line up with my values,’” Gundelach says. “And to do that, of course, brands and retailers have to put out what their values are that they stand for.”

Sustainable Packaging: The Reuse Revolution

TerraCycle’s Loop leads the charge as brands, retailers and consumers all express a desire to reduce packaging waste https://assets1.consumergoods.com/styles/content_sm/s3/2019-09/P%26G_-_Tide.jpg?itok=FfpB_Qhs TerraCycle launched its Loop initiative in the spring, giving consumer packaged goods brands a platform to have their products delivered in reusable containers, as in the old days of the milkman bringing glass bottles to the doorstep. What followed was a small pilot in the Northeast that quickly garnered a waiting list of 90,000 consumers requesting the service.   “If we tried to launch [Loop] five years ago, I don’t know if it would’ve worked,” says Anthony Rossi, the program’s global vice president of business development. “But if there’s one thing we’ve seen so far, it’s that the consumer is now ready.”   A recent Nielsen survey found that 75% of consumers globally would “definitely” or “probably” change their consumption habits if doing so would have a positive effect on the environment; nearly half of U.S. consumers said likewise.   “And these consumers are putting their dollars where their values are, spending $128.5 billion on sustainable fast-moving consumer products this year,” says Kyle McKinley, vice president of design solutions at Nielsen. “Since 2014, these influential shoppers have grown sustainable product sales by nearly 20%, with a compound growth rate that’s four times larger than conventional products.” Nielsen expects sustainable-friendly shoppers in the U.S to spend upward of $150 billion on sustainable goods by 2021.

Good for Business

  Reducing waste isn’t just good for the world, it’s good for business. With consumers showing signs of wanting to play their role in reducing waste, brands and retailers are motivated to develop more sustainable goods and packaging options. Just this summer, a coalition of industry companies including Procter & Gamble, PepsiCo and SAP founded the Brands for Good coalition; separately, a host of CPGs, retailers and packaging providers formed the Sustainable Packaging Coalition. (Neither group responded to requests for an interview.)   Participants in the Brands for Good coalition are making commitments to embed social purpose into their brand promises and products; to use brand influence to make sustainable living accessible for consumers; and to collaborate with other players to change behavior to create a positive impact on the planet. Each company will launch its own projects with that shared mission in mind.   P&G played an integral role in the launch of Loop and is one of more than 100 brands already working with the platform. Three years ago, the CPG giant stood side by side with TerraCycle at the World Economic Forum to discuss its use of ocean plastics in Head & Shoulders bottles, and at that time began discussing the idea of reusable services. It has since also launched Tide Purclean, a plant-based liquid detergent, and has an overall goal to make all product packaging recyclable or reusable by 2030.   Other major CPGs such as Coca-Cola, PepsiCo, General Mills, Unilever and Diageo, to name a few, have set similar public goals in an effort to reduce global waste by making packaging more recyclable.

Making a Commitment

  Nestle, another founding Loop partner, has “committed to making 100% of our packaging recyclable or reusable by 2025,” says Elizabell Marquez, director of marketing for the company’s Haagen-Dazs brand. The Nestle Institute of Packaging Sciences was created last year to advance these efforts, she notes. https://assets1.consumergoods.com/styles/content_sm/s3/2019-09/The_Clorox_Company_-_Disinfecting_Wipes1.jpg?itok=0AoUJ0yH

  Clorox Co., also a Loop partner, is expected this month to announce an “ambitious product and packaging-related sustainability strategy as part of our broader environmental, social and governance strategy,” promises Andrea Rudert, associate director, corporate responsibility. Clorox previously set a goal to improve the sustainability of half of its product portfolio by 2020, with 2011 being the baseline year.   “We surpassed that goal two years early,” Rudert says. “In fact, as of the end of our 2019 fiscal year, we made sustainability improvements to 58% of our product portfolio.” The company has recyclable primary packaging for 92% of its lineup.   Other manufacturers making sustainable commitments include SC Johnson, which last spring launched Windex in special packaging at Target, Walmart and other retailers. The bottles are made from 100% recycled ocean plastic and are non-toxic and cruelty-free.   Windex is also planning this fall to launch a “Social Plastic” bottle that will include recycled ocean-bound social plastic sourced by Plastic Bank from Haiti, the Philippines and Indonesia. The effort is designed to help the environment but also provide social benefits to people living below the poverty line in those nations, according to a company release.   SC Johnson also expanded Windex’s concentrate cleaner offerings into products from such brands as Pledge, Scrubbing Bubbles, Shout and Fantastik. The concentrate refill bottles use 80% less plastic compared to a brand new, larger trigger bottle; consumers mix tap water with the concentrate into a reusable trigger bottle to significantly reduce plastic waste.   Elsewhere, Hasbro will phase out the use of plastics in its packaging beginning in 2020, doing away with the polybags, elastic bands, shrink wrap, window sheets and blister packs that have long been part of the toy buying experience. The company eliminated wire ties from packaging in 2010, and has been working with TerraCycle to recycle materials from old toys and games to make innovative social spaces and items like play areas, flowerpots and park benches.   Yet another TerraCycle partner, Colgate-Palmolive, has been recycling used toothpaste tubes and toothbrushes into playground materials. The company also recently unveiled a recyclable toothpaste tube that will launch in 2020 via the Tom’s of Maine brand but extend to all brands by 2025. The tube uses the “number 2” plastic commonly found in soda bottles.

In the Loop

  With TerraCycle’s two-decade-long history of working with brands to eliminate waste, it’s no surprise the company was able to partner up with manufacturers such as P&G, Unilever, Bic, Mars and Danone to launch a strategy around reusable packaging. TerraCycle began as a solution to help brands recycle products that aren’t recycled at traditional facilities, such as cigarette butts, chip bags and various personal care products. That remains the company’s largest operation. Second to that effort is working with brands to integrate recycled content into its packaging, as it did through the aforementioned efforts with P&G’s Head & Shoulders on the ocean plastics and Colgate for playground materials.   TerraCycle’s newest business unit is Loop, which Rossi describes as “dusting off the idea of the milkman and bringing it to any product that’s single-use today.” Loop is, in fact, a way to completely eliminate packaging waste. “Recycling is a Band-Aid on a cut, and what we need to do is attack the problem at its core. And the problem is single use and disposability.”   Nestle became a founding partner of Loop because the concept presents an “innovative and disruptive approach to changing how products are packaged – and delivered – and how consumers enjoy them,” says Marquez.   The short of it: Shoppers buy a brand’s durable, reusable (and exclusive) Loop packaging, which gets delivered through Loop in a special tote bag. When the contents are up for a refill, the user puts the packaging back in the Loop bag for free pickup; Loop then sanitizes the packaging to be refilled by the brand and shipped back to the user.   Kroger and Walgreens in the U.S, as well as Carrefour and Tesco in Europe, are Loop’s current retail partners. They help sell and distribute the Loop platform, with consumers signing up for Loop through the retailers.   A key element to the model is the brand’s involvement with the packaging. While Loop helps brands develop containers that can be used hundreds of times, can be sanitized and are strong enough to withstand the frequent shipping, they remain the brand’s asset.   Nestle, for example, owns the sleek, steel Haagen-Dazs container it developed for Loop, which Marquez says is a way to show that sustainability can be delivered in upscale, premium wrapping. The stainless steel container is etched with the familiar Haagen-Dazs tapestry, carries double lining for extra cooling and has an easy twist-off top, she explains.   “Loop is encouraging participating brands to create durable and reusable packaging designs that are more visually appealing,” says Rudert at Clorox. “The hope is that consumers will keep products on their countertops because they are ‘show off’ worthy.”   Clorox teamed with Loop for its pilot launch, testing a container for Clorox disinfecting wipes and a bottle for Hidden Valley Original Ranch dressing. (Glad food protection products are in the works.) Other Loop packaging examples include a simple, white container for Mars pet food; a Nature’s Path granola jar; and P&G’s range of chic steel or glass bottles for Tide, Crest mouthwash and other products.   “A lot of times, innovation in sustainability is perceived to start with these smaller, grassroots brands, and we keep sustainability on the fringes and we target that eco-friendly person,” Loop’s Rossi says. “What’s exciting about Loop is we’re trying to make sustainability irresistible to everyone. We’re working with big national brands and big national retailers, because for us to have the positive environmental impact that we want to have, sustainability can’t be kept to the fringes of society. It needs to be in everyone’s house.” https://assets1.consumergoods.com/styles/content_sm/s3/2019-09/Nestle-Haagen_Dazs_Lifestyle-TEASER_0.jpg?itok=rkO8tmbw

Going Forward

  Rossi’s somewhat Utopian vision is to see Loop operating nationwide, in every ZIP code, within five years. In the meantime, he encourages brands to think about incorporating more recycling into the design process. For example, if a detergent brand has decided to use “number 2” plastic (one of the most recyclable materials) but designs it in black, that’s a color that recycling machines often don’t pick up.   The Rochester Institute of Technology has been studying sustainability in packaging since the 1980s, says Dan Johnson, professor and chair of the school’s department of packaging science. Its efforts take a full supply chain view, examining issues such as transportation energy and product damage, not just material use and formats.   “Brands need to remember that not all successes in sustainability need to be customer-focused,” Johnson says, adding that consumer behavior around sustainability can be a bit of a wild card. “A good deal of the wins are only detectable by packaging geeks like our faculty, but [those actions] may be the largest contributor to meeting corporate sustainability goals around packaging.”   Johnson is inspired by some of the brand activity out there today, but warns that “economic and technical challenges in the recycling process are creating a shortage of both quality recycled raw material and credible outlets for collected recyclables. Thankfully, this gap in technology is beginning to be addressed by advances in areas like chemical recycling and advanced mechanical sortation technology.”   Back on the consumer-facing front lines, Nielsen’s McKinley says brands must stay true to who they are when considering their sustainable packaging designs. “As you act on collective sustainability needs in an authentic way for your brand, leverage the tools you already have: everyday analytics, innovation testing, consumer resonance and more.”   Clorox’s Rudert adds that brands and retailers should continue to raise greater consumer awareness on the urgent need for more sustainable commerce models. “When consumers are willing to pay for these products, companies will be incentivized to invest in the innovations needed to create sustainable change.”

4 reasons it’s hard to become a sustainable business

Ask business executives, environmental activists and academics what it means for a business to be sustainable, and you will get an array of answers. Also, one company’s “sustainable” move could hurt the environment in other ways. Add to that the fact that making any change to an existing business practice is expensive, and it is easy to see the conundrum facing businesses around the world in light of the climate crisis.

There is no single definition of ‘sustainability’

The head of the United Nations is setting a daunting goal at the U.N. climate summit in New York this week: completely transform the world’s economies to be more sustainable and find solutions to climate change. “The climate crisis is caused by us, and the solutions must come from us,” U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres said Monday at the U.N. Climate Action Summit in New York. “There is a cost to everything ,but the biggest cost is doing nothing.” But what does “sustainable” even mean? “There is a crippling vagueness about what sustainability means,” said Geoffrey Jones, a business history professor at Harvard University and the author of “Profits and Sustainability: A History of Green Entrepreneurship.” United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres speaks during the opening of the 2019 United Nations Climate Action Summit at U.N. headquarters in New York City, New York, U.S., September 23, 2019. Photo by Lucas Jackson/Reuters United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres speaks during the opening of the 2019 United Nations Climate Action Summit at U.N. headquarters in New York City, New York, U.S., September 23, 2019. Photo by Lucas Jackson/Reuters While carbon emissions are receiving much of the focus because of climate change, deforestation, water shortages and soil erosion are also serious problems that should not be ignored, Jones said. Many companies are buying their electricity from renewable energy, which saves them money in addition to emitting fewer carbon emissions, for example. But some environmentalists have raised concerns that rare materials used in solar panels are mined unsustainably, the panels themselves are not recyclable and solar energy companies do not effectively track their carbon emissions. The lack of a firm definition means there is a lack of accountability, as well. Businesses are increasingly claiming to be sustainable, but few can provide hard evidence that their business practices are not damaging the environment. Last month, a group of Fortune 500 CEOs announced they would no longer make shareholders’ interests their sole priority and promised to “protect the environment by embracing sustainable practices across our businesses.” Environmentalists expressed cautious optimism about the move, saying it needs to be backed up by real change that customers can see. The problem of rhetoric over action has been made starkly clear in investment funds that claim to be socially responsible. Environmental, social and governance, or ESG, funds often include oil and gas companies, which are major contributors to carbon emissions, or other large companies like Coca-Cola, which produces 110 billion single-use plastic bottles per year. Many of the companies included in those funds have taken steps to reduce their environmental impact but are still far from having a neutral or positive impact on the environment.

Determining the value of sustainability

Shifting business practices to be more environmentally-friendly can be expensive, at least in up-front costs, which makes businesses averse to making necessary changes. “Someone can come up with a cost of doing something different much more quickly than determining what is the value to the business,” said Bruno Sarda, president of the Carbon Disclosure Project North America, a nonprofit that collects information about how companies are trying to reduce their environmental impact. It is relatively easy to calculate the savings from buying renewable energy, Sarda said, but not all sustainability solutions are as straight-forward. Changing an entire business supply chain to use more sustainable raw materials or recycle those materials, as Apple has promised to do, is likely to require a costly initial investment even if it would pay off years later. One immediate benefit of implementing sustainable business practices? It can build goodwill with increasingly environmentally-conscious customers. Government regulation can encourage companies to change their practices by putting a higher price tag on environmental damage, but politicians are often hesitant to increase regulations for fear of hurting business.

Consuming less can reduce profits

Supporting real sustainability means encouraging customers to consume less,, environmental experts say. That goal stands in direct contrast to companies’ business models, which is to expand and sell more of their product. But some businesses are trying to find a balance. Patagonia, the outdoor clothing and gear company, has long advocated for reduced consumption. “We hope our existing customers do indeed buy less. But we hope to attract more customers that are interested in our message: to build the best product, to reduce our impact and cause the least amount of environmental harm,” Doug Freeman, Patagonia’s chief operating officer, told the PBS NewsHour in 2015. Patagonia closed all its stores and offices Friday to allow its employees to join the global climate strike, and it’s pledged to only use renewable or recyclable materials in its products by 2025 as a way to reduce carbon emissions. Patagonia has the flexibility to make these decisions that could cut into profits in the short-term because it’s a privately held company so it is not pressured to show quarterly growth like publicly-traded companies. Patagonia’s products, however, are more expensive than many other companies, which makes marketing difficult in a marketplace where consumers tend to choose the cheapest option. For Patagonia’s model to work in the larger marketplace, consumers either have to believe that the higher price they are paying for a product now will save them money later because they are paying for a higher-quality product and will not have to replace it in the near future, or they have to be willing to pay the higher price in exchange for being more environmentally friendly. Both scenarios require a change in mindset, which economists say is not easy to achieve.

Climate solutions require collective action

The economic problem known as the “tragedy of the commons” posits that people believe if they do not use a natural resource, someone else will, and they will lose out. That mindset leads people (and companies) to deplete valuable resources. As a way to get around this problem, companies have been teaming up with each other and with environmentally-focused nonprofits. Loop is one such effort. Earlier this year, Walgreens and Kroger partnered with TerraCycle, a waste management company, to sell dozens of consumer products through a circular shopping system. Customers of Loop can buy a wide variety of products, from pasta to shampoo, in reusable containers. The products are delivered to the customers’ homes and, when they are empty, the containers can be picked up to be cleaned and reused. https://d3i6fh83elv35t.cloudfront.net/static/2019/09/2019-05-14T000000Z_1223712481_RC12E4C31A60_RTRMADP_3_CARREFOUR-WASTE-LOOP-1024x711.jpg Delivery boxes with the logo of Loop are displayed before the news conference held by French retailer Carrefour and U.S. waste recycling firm TerraCycle to launch Loop, an e-commerce service to cut the flow of single-use plastic containers in Paris, France May 14, 2019. REUTERS/Gonzalo Fuentes By working together, companies gain more leverage in the national and global marketplace and legitimacy in the eyes of consumers, said Joanne Sonenshine, the CEO of Connective Impact, a sustainability business consulting firm based in the Washington, D.C.-area. “If you have a group of very respectable nonprofits or research agencies saying we are working with this company because we believe they can make a change, that puts a lot of credence behind what they are trying to do,” Sonenshine said. But Loop is only currently available to customers in a handful of northeastern states, and while other companies are creating similar circular economic models, environmental activists warn that they aren’t being adopted quickly enough to address the looming threat of climate change.

My first Loop: Early days in the circular shopping platform

https://www.supplychaindive.com/user_media/cache/bf/6c/bf6c1afb999b7b0626ef5d606dc49cd3.jpg Over the last few months, I and dozens (if not hundreds) of others have placed orders for common household items from Loop — a new e-commerce site that attempts to eliminate the immense amount of single-use packaging and filler that comes with shopping, online or in-store. The platform officially launched its e-commerce site in May with roughly 25 vendors and two major retail partners in Kroger and Walgreens. The platform is currently available to consumers in select zip codes in New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Vermont, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Maryland, Washington D.C. and Paris. At the launch event in May, participating vendors and retailers, along with CEO Tom Szaky of TerraCycle (the recycling company behind the concept), made it clear the early days are an experiment from which the various stakeholders will learn how consumers use the platform. These insights would inform future evolutions of the product. A good start but, by no means, the ultimate form Loop will take.

It feels like good old e-commerce but ...

The process feels very much like a traditional e-commerce transaction with a few exceptions. Shoppers choose their items, each with a base price and an additional container deposit to be refunded when the item is returned empty. Then the items are shipped via UPS in a reusable zippered box the size of medium-sized cooler. I placed my order Friday, May 31 and received it Tuesday, June 4.
Once the products are used up, the idea is to put the empty packages back in the Loop box for UPS pickup and the containers will be cleaned, sanitized and recirculated — everything is reused. Even the shipping label was a thick piece of paper that slides into a slot in the top of the box that simply needs to be flipped over to send the box back. One of the most striking elements about the experience was how the consumer is never without instructions as to what to do next. Every item has some form of return direction on it encouraging the user to complete the Loop. Even the tiny plastic zip tie that secures the delivery box (and the fresh one inside for the return shipment) is well-marked with instructions. https://www.supplychaindive.com/user_media/diveimage/IMG_4817_xCMz688.jpg Every item, from reusable box filler to each product, is marked with instructions so the user is never unclear as to what to do next.  |   Credit: Emma Cosgrove   The product selection in the store is so far fairly limited — spanning dry bulk food products like nuts, spices and pasta, a few personal care items like razors and hand wash, household cleaners and ice cream. Many more brands are advertised as partnering with Loop, so hopefully the assortment will grow soon. In my first order, I tried to choose items from every category and receive a variety of products — and more importantly, a variety of containers. The packaging, after all, is a key part of the innovation. TerraCycle worked with the committed vendors like Unilever, Mars, Nestle, PepsiCo, Colgate-Palmolive, Procter & Gamble and more to develop versions of selected products in largely non-plastic packaging with the aim of getting 100 cycles out of every container. https://www.supplychaindive.com/user_media/diveimage/Anchor-Product_Family.jpg "Reusable packaging is more expensive from an environmental perspective to make the first time ... but every time it goes around, you don't have the cost of remaking it. All you do is have the cost of collecting it and cleaning it. And by using really efficient supply chains to do the collection, it’s very efficient to transport," Szaky said at the launch. Most of the containers I received were stainless with some plastic components like pumps and spray nozzles. I also received peanut butter in a glass jar (with a $2 deposit, which admittedly caused a bit of sticker shock). All were perfectly functional (even in the shower) and certainly better to look at than logo-adorned plastic.

How do the prices compare?

In short ... it varies. At today’s prices, Loop's more premium items are more comparable to the market price than the mass-market brands. For example, 19.5 oz. of organic lemon-flavored almonds cost $16.65 plus the container deposit — a slightly cheaper per ounce rate than the product is priced on the brand’s website. While dry black beans are priced at $3.25 a pound plus the container deposit – at least 60% more than a bulk price in a grocery store. Tide detergent is fairly competitively priced, while a pint of Haagen-Dazs is at least $1 more than at the grocery store and carries a hefty $5.00 deposit for the much-hailed stainless container that allows the eater to hold the pint comfortably, and shovel directly into their mouth, even after pulling the metal directly from the freezer. https://www.supplychaindive.com/user_media/diveimage/IMG_4829_2.jpg The Haagen-Dazs container is designed with an inner and outer stainless steel layer to enable faster melting only at the top and comfortable eating from the pint straight form the freezer.   |   Credit: Emma Cosgrove And those deposits add up. On my first order, I paid $30.50 in deposits including the $15.00 deposit for the shipping box — 23% of my total order. Cleverly though, upon return, the deposits go into a deposit balance on the site instead of being refunded back through your payment method, so the blow will be much softer next time around. (The circular nature of the platform not only keeps your shopping nearly waste-free but also is a fairly effective marketing tool to encourage subsequent orders since not all products empty out on the same schedule.)

Would I order again?

The experience of opening the Loop box and producing no immediate waste is exactly as I expected – a relief. The box itself, especially for a relatively small order of seven items like mine, came with a lot of foam packaging and a cooler with many ice packs for the ice cream I ordered. I had to remind myself that though it seemed excessive, none of this was waste. When I finished with about half of the items, I sent the box back and received an email within 24 hours acknowledging receipt of my empty products. https://www.supplychaindive.com/user_media/diveimage/IMG_4837.jpg Every bit of package filler protecting the Loop products is reusable.  |   Credit: Emma Cosgrove   All in all, Loop is still for true believers. As an avid online shopper, especially for household basics and groceries, keenly aware of how much waste that generates on a nearly daily basis — I am such a believer. I will order again to reduce my waste, to support the initiative and to satisfy my curiosity as this program grows and changes. The platform doesn’t meet quite enough of my needs to cancel out any of the other vendors I currently shop with — though I’m watching eagerly for the day that it does. The brands available now don’t all work for me, and I imagine with mass market and niche brands accounted for in a relatively small assortment of products, this will be true for almost everyone. It's not a platform for value or selection yet. But it is relatively guilt-free and offers a smooth, responsive and guided user experience that is enjoyable. The supply chain innovation when it comes to Loop is mostly in the products themselves. The return, wash and recirculate model is borrowed from various industries like commercial linens (though the product variety is much larger and the per-order minimum much smaller for Loop) and the transport itself is simple logistics and reverse logistics. But scaling the products as the platform grows will be something to watch — and so will the shifts in consumer behavior as the platform expands its products and customer base. Did it change my consumption life? No. But I see how it could one day.  

Loop: The New Recycling Initiative

woman receiving loop package Companies are still fighting to go green, and Kroger and Walgreens are the latest to join in on a new recycling project. This state-of-the-art circular shopping system, named Loop, officially launched their pilot program in May of 2019 in the Mid-Atlantic region of the U.S. to lessen the world’s reliance on single-use packaging, according to a TerraCycle press release. First announced at the World Economic Forum in January, Loop enables consumers to purchase a variety of commonly used products from leading consumer brands in customized, brand-specific durable packaging that is delivered in a specially designed reusable shipping tote. When finished with the product, the packaging is collected, cleaned, refilled and reused, creating a revolutionary circular shopping system. Loop is an initiative from TerraCycle, an innovative waste management company whose mission is to eliminate the idea of waste. Operating nationally across 21 countries, TerraCycle partners with leading consumer companies, retailers, cities and facilities to recycle hard-to-recycle waste. Loop provides customers this circular shopping platform while encouraging manufacturers to own and take responsibility for their packaging on the long term. “Loop was designed from the ground-up to reinvent the way we consume by leveraging the sustainable, circular milkman model of yesterday with the convenience of e-commerce,” said Tom Szaky, founder and CEO of Loop and TerraCycle, in the press release. “TerraCycle came together with dozens of major consumer product companies from P&G to Nestle to Unilever, the World Economic Forum Future of Consumption Platform, logistics and transportation company UPS and leading retailers Kroger and Walgreens to create a simple and convenient way to enjoy a wide range of products, customized in brand-specific durable and reusable packaging.”

How It Works

Consumers can go to www.loopstore.comwww.thekrogerco.com/loop or www.walgreens.com/loop to place an order. The shipment will then come in Loop’s exclusively designed shipping tote. After use, buyers place the empty containers into their Loop totes and go online to schedule a pickup from their home. Loop will clean the packaging so that each product may be safely reused to replenish products for more customers. There are also a number of completely free recycling programs on TerraCycle’s website, www.terracycle.com/en-US, where consumers can sign up for an account. Once the account is created, customers can collect the hard-to-recycle materials and either ship it or drop it off at a participating location. There are numerous different free programs that can be used and each one is for a specific product. For example, one of the programs is the ARM & HAMMER® and OXICLEAN® pouch recycling program, which only allows participants to ship these used materials. Other programs include products for Barilla Ready Pasta, Beech-Nut, Burt’s Bees and Brita, which can only be recycled in their specific programs. Being able to ship recycled materials or drop them off depends on each program.

How Retailers Can Participate

Right now, the Loop pilot program is available in New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Maryland and Washington, D.C. If you are interested in creating a collection and recycling program for your non-recyclable products or packaging, TerraCycle has a wide variety of platform options. Typically, TerraCycle collects post-consumer waste from your key target consumers, cleans the waste, and then works with your brand to drive equity and value. Some of the consumer product companies that are currently working with Loop include Unilever, Nature’s Path, Nestle, SC Johnson, The Body Shop and Colgate-Palmolive, among others.

The Zero Waste Box Program

Another great way to participate in this go-green initiative includes the opportunity to recycle almost anything — for both your business and your customers. This special program helps you to recycle almost any type of waste, such as coffee capsules from your morning coffee or complex laboratory waste from your business, sending nothing to landfill or incineration. To open the door for your customers into this program, you can order a permanent collection unit to house your Zero Waste Box. A permanent unit protects your box, can be styled to fit your environment or store, and offers an organized place to maintain your collections. TerraCycle can work with you to understand and accommodate your budget, styling, quantity and timeline needs. No matter your recycling needs as a business, TerraCycle is willing to work with you. They also help with recycling at events in the case your store is holding a pop-up or other related events. Global warming is becoming a larger concern, and with these recycling programs, you can feel better about your impact on the environment as well as create customer loyalty if they can come back and recycle their products at your store. Happy recycling!  

Reusable Packaging Startup Loop Makes Headway On Store Shelves

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

Looking back to the future of packaging

Despite being a certified millennial, I am late to the bandwagon on many trends — listening to podcasts being one of them. Though I have dipped a toe into the vast sea of podcast programming this year, I spend a lot of my “listening hours” on the podcasts of yesteryear — vintage radio programming. These shows are fun to listen to not only for the classic comedy routines or noir-style whodunnits, but also because of the commercials. You can learn a lot from advertising. Case in point: I recently binge-listened to several seasons of “Casey, Crime Photographer,” sponsored by the Anchor Hocking Glass Co. — “the most famous name in glass.” Of all Anchor Hocking’s advertised products, what I found most interesting were spots promoting glass jars for baby food or fruits and vegetables, and others introducing the “revolutionary new one-way no-deposit bottle” — not because I’m fascinated by glass, but because of the insight they give on packaging trends throughout the decades. Glass was promoted as a clean, safe, convenient vehicle for baby food that allowed concerned mothers to examine the quality of the product within as well as easily store any leftovers for baby’s next meal. Glass, according to Anchor Hocking, enabled America’s food producers to preserve summer’s bounty of fruits and vegetables at “the peak of freshness” for consumption in the winter months, especially during a world food shortage. And the one-way no-deposit bottle meant you didn’t have to haul all your empty beer bottles back to the store — you could simply toss them into the garbage pail with everything else. In the post-WWII era when rationing and materials conservation were no longer necessities, throwing a single-use glass container away probably felt like a small luxury. Today, however, we’re on the other end of throw-away culture, and the global conversation on packaging has shifted back to reuse as sustainability becomes more important. Kroger, for example, is piloting products in reuseable glass or metal containers through a partnership with Loop and TerraCycle. Since glass isn’t really practical where fresh is concerned, produce companies are seeking to reduce the amount of plastic in packaging or make it easier for consumers to recycle paper and plastic packaging elements. At the same time, a recent study shows 72% of consumers either don’t mind buying produce in plastic or prefer to do so, compared with 17% who say they try to avoid it as much as possible. Since consumers today — just like those of the 1940s — put a high value on convenience, my guess is plastic packaging isn’t going to go away anytime soon. However, if both e-commerce and sustainability efforts continue to reshape how people buy things and how companies do business, I wouldn’t be surprised if, in the future, we hear advertisements on podcasts for the revolutionary new returnable, reuseable, refillable strawberry clamshell or pear pouch bag — “simply consume the fruit, send the packaging back to the shipper, and receive a refilled container, all with the click of a button.”  

In the loop

Businesses are faced with significant challenges every day. Among the most demanding are working towards a supply chain that is sustainable, yet profitable. It’s no longer about minimally meeting environmental regulations but creating value for consumers and stakeholders. The focus is toward more innovative, opportunity-focused thinking that considers impacts on the planet and society (is it positive, neutral or simply “less bad”?) and prepares organizations for resilience and growth in an uncertain future. For consumer packaged goods (CPG) companies, thinking critically about the function of packaging and the ways they can change the paradigm around production and consumption is one aspect of designing a supply chain that can take us out of the linear and into a regenerative circular economy. As the system currently operates, industry produces on a one-way track to landfilling and incineration. Raw material is sourced from the earth to produce commodities sold, used and disposed, and the value of the material is lost—either buried or burned. Facilities waste and other pre-consumer materials meet the same fate. From linear to circular This make-use-dispose pipeline is known as the linear economy because products and packaging, once manufactured and used, too often go in one direction: the garbage. Conversely, the concept of a circular economy keeps resources in the supply chain at high value by recovering, reusing and repurposing whenever possible. Within this context, supply chain doesn’t just refer to the materials and processes involved in the back-end of making and distributing something, but the full lifecycle of an item, including when it leaves the production line. The consumer goods supply chain is currently quite wasteful end-to-end; focusing on packaging reveals significant opportunities for improvement. Many “green” packaging trends aim to solve for waste with the end-user, the link where the value of material is visibly lost. For example, biodegradable bioplastics made of renewable feedstocks instead of petroleum are supposed to break down in the environment as plastic litter does not. This demonstrates a change in raw material sourcing and an attempt to prevent litter with a material that will decompose. However, most compostable bioplastics need an industrial composting facility to break down. There are only a handful of those globally, and many don’t want this in their piles. What’s more, the resources needed to produce bioplastic are agricultural space, water and material the world is nowhere near able to sustain at scale. Another example of manufacturers aiming to tackle waste on both ends of the supply chain is the practice of lightweighting packaging by either replacing materials with a lighter weight alternative (glass with plastic) or using less material. The idea is less waste at the front and back end, but often results in a product or package rendered non-recyclable through conventional channels. What neither of these methods do is value resources such that they are kept cycling within the supply chain and in use for as long as possible, extracting their maximum value and recovering them for reintegration. Each practice assumes the resources that go into producing packaging, and the resulting post-consumer waste, is disposable and still treats the material as single-use. We did a lot of reflection and realized that the foundational cause of garbage is disposability. For a packaging designer, an effective approach when considering materials is to make packaging out of material that recyclers want and have the technology to handle. It’s about the entire supply chain and the potential for a recycling company to make a profit. But a circular economy is one that focuses on durability and use of renewable resources, including energy inputs. Recycling, while important, is energy and resource intensive, which is why so many items are not considered cost-effective to recycle. The need for profit Packaging design for profitability is certainly complex enough without considering the full life cycle of materials. Manufacturers and brands that commit to sustainability in a practical, scalable way stand out in an industry that still profits from the status quo, but it must be profitable in order for it to stick in the short-term. Rethinking all aspects of the supply chain, from sourcing to end-of-life, is the key. Above all resources, true change requires boldness. TerraCycle’s new circular shopping platform Loop works with brands to create durable versions of goods previously housed in single-use packaging. The products are offered in a combination of glass, stainless steel, aluminum and engineered plastics designed to last at least 100 uses; when they do wear out, TerraCycle is able to recycle them, cycling the value of the material. Offering trusted brands in upgraded containers, consumers enjoy products they love while eliminating packaging waste—a “win-win” for profitable, sustainable supply chains. Conveniently delivered to one’s doorstep, the Loop Tote doesn’t use bubble wrap, air packs, plastic foam, or cardboard boxes, also scrapping excess e-commerce packaging material. With Loop, brands are taking the bold step of owning their package at every link on the supply chain and putting their packages back on the line. While the goal of the platform is to eventually eliminate single-use packaging from the waste stream altogether, manufacturers have the opportunity to offer their refillable products as an additional SKU in their product lines, which has virtues for large and small brands alike. While large companies have the resources and funding to take on a lighthouse project like this, smaller businesses have the flexibility to design for sustainability in the now. Corporations such as Procter & Gamble and Unilever can make a huge impact here, while young companies like Soapply and Melanin Essentials set the standard for making sustainability a part of their DNA. As an integral aspect of the supply chain, retailer partnerships bring the packaging into stores, making it accessible for consumers. In the United States, our founding partners are Walgreens and Kroger, Europe has Carrefour, and Canada’s largest food and pharmacy retailer Loblaw Companies Limited recently announced it would launch the platform in the country early-2020. Developing close collaborations of this kind creates a strong position for all players to offer higher-value products with less waste on the back-end. Reconciling innovation and growth with sustainability is by no means an easy task, and dialogue with all stakeholders yield more-complete information and options to consider. An important thing to remember is that supply chains are about people, not just processes. What’s interesting is the higher up the waste hierarchy you move (from litter to landfill, waste to energy, to recycling, upcycling and reuse) the more jobs you create in the process. In terms of injecting value in moving from the linear to the circular economy, this is a positive most of us can agree on. In the end, sustainability comes down to taking responsibility. What companies tend to be good at is being efficient in their operations. Focus less on the physical factory as the point of the environmental issue and realize everything put out on the market will become garbage unless you take responsibility for it. Everything leaving the factory currently becomes waste. Tom Szaky is the founder and CEO of TerraCycle Design products that have value, instead of harm. The circular economy at its ideal is intended to be regenerative. Shouldn’t we aspire that our products actually create a benefit? Even If we get to 100 per cent recycling, 100 per cent recycled content and zero packaging waste from reusable packaging, we’ve only hit net neutral. What is net positive? We need to start thinking about that versus just going about how are we going to eliminate our negative.  

Change the World 2019: Where Business Creates Virtuous Circles

You might not expect modern corporations to tackle an urgent problem of the 21st century by looking back to the 1950s. But that’s what one group of companies is doing with a new service called Loop, whose backers refer to its approach as “the milkman model.” As that Leave It to Beaver–era nickname implies, Loop delivers supermarket and drugstore staples—including toothpaste, detergent, mayonnaise, and ice cream—to consumers’ homes in durable, reusable containers. It’s a “zero waste” initiative, an effort to alleviate the planet’s plastic-pollution crisis. Several consumer-goods giants are Loop partners, including Unilever and Nestlé (which are packaging their brands in Loop’s bottles and tubes) and retailers Kroger and Walgreens. The company that conceived Loop, however, and will distribute, clean, and refill all those containers, is tiny TerraCycle, a 302-employee startup in Trenton, N.J., whose CEO, Tom Szaky, founded the business 18 years ago in his Princeton dorm room. TerraCycle holds the No. 10 spot on Fortune’s fifth annual Change the World list. The list honors companies that recognize public health, environmental, economic, and social problems as major challenges—but also as opportunities to initiate a so-called virtuous circle. They understand that doing good for society and the planet can help them bring in more revenue, which can help them do more good, in a self-reinforcing loop. The TerraCycle project embodies another kind of virtuous circle: As the threats posed by pollution become increasingly urgent, more companies are embracing the idea of a “circular economy,” one in which products last longer and are close to 100% recyclable. That idea animates Daisy, Apple’s iPhone-repurposing robot (No. 16); the reusable “smart grid” circuitry manufactured by French giant Schneider Electric (No. 9); and many other innovations featured here. Expanding opportunities for your own employees can create another positive loop. That ideal guides $514 billion retailer Walmart (No. 5), which is paying for higher education for thousands of its employees, and $398 million restaurant chain MOD Pizza (No. 28), which has built its workforce around formerly incarcerated people and others who struggle to get hired elsewhere. We selected the 2019 list in collaboration with our expert partners at Shared Value Initiative, a consultancy that helps companies apply business skills to social problems. As MOD shows, small companies are just as capable as multinationals of fitting that bill. This year’s smaller candidates were particularly potent. Our 52 honorees include at least nine companies with less than $1 billion in annual revenue. “Small” doesn’t mean “money-losing,” however. These companies here have built their do-gooder ideas into real business models, and are either turning a profit with their help or have credible plans for doing so. (Please see more about our methodology here.) The Change the World list doesn’t score companies on their charitable generosity, nor does it rate them on some cosmic scale of good and bad. It celebrates the nexus where daring ideas overlap with the desire to make the world better. Loop, which has signed up 80,000 customers in the U.S. and Europe since its launch in May, sits in that sweet spot. It’s not going to make the Great Pacific Garbage Patch disappear. But be patient: Many world-changing ideas start small.

TerraCycle’s Szaky Creates Opportunities from Challenges

The 2019 Waste360 40 Under 40 award recipient discusses how he got his start in the industry as well as TerraCycle’s mission to eliminate waste. When Tom Szaky was a freshman at Princeton University, he and several friends during a fall break ended up feeding kitchen scraps to red worms and using the resulting fertilizer to feed some of their indoor plants. The results amazed Szaky and the idea for TerraCycle was born: to help eliminate the idea of waste by making quality fertilizer from food waste. Szaky emptied his savings accounts, borrowed money from friends and family and maxed out his credit cards to create a massive worm feces conversion unit. He eventually decided to leave Princeton and pursue TerraCycle fulltime. The company has since evolved, and earlier this year, TerraCycle created Loop, a first-of-its-kind circular shopping system, in partnership with major retailers and brands. It aims to change the world’s reliance on single-use packaging, offer a convenient and enhanced circular solution to consumers and secure meaningful environmental benefits. The system, which also launched in Paris and will continue to roll out to more markets throughout 2019 and 2020, allows customers to responsibly consume a range of products in customized, brand-specific, durable packaging that is collected, cleaned, refilled and reused. The content, if recoverable, is either recycled or reused. Szaky has been named a 2019 Waste360 40 Under 40 award recipient. He was nominated by Kimberly Frost, who never met him but has been interested in and following Terracycle’s growth through the years. “He's a self-made guy,” says Frost. “He invested in his passion and grew from there. He stayed local. He invested in his community. He took his solutions global. He is someone who harnesses challenges and morphs them into opportunities. His solutions benefit the environment and show the human capacity for creative problem-solving.” We recently sat down with the 40 Under 40 awardrecipient to discuss how he got his start in the industry as well as TerraCycle’s idea to eliminate waste. Waste360: How did you get your start in the industry? Tom Szaky: I started my company in the middle of my freshman year of college, and I left college in my sophomore year to pursue it, so I sort of fell into the industry. I think waste is an amazingly big topic and relative to its immense scale; it’s incredibly un-innovative. So, that to me was a way to create a business that focused on purpose, as in making the environment better and, in a secondary way, making society better while making a profit. And that was very attractive to me. Waste360: Please tell us about your brief time at Princeton. Tom Szaky: When I was in college, I was very interested in behavioral economics—that was my major. I think the big turning point for me in economics overall and sort of thinking about business in different ways was actually the first class of economics. The professor got up on stage and the first thing she said was, ‘Let’s define the purpose of business.’ And the answer she was looking for was profit to shareholders. I sort of had a problem with that in the sense that I thought there are so many people who interact with a business—employees, vendors, customers, etc.—and so few do it for profit to shareholders and don’t think it’s the reason for its existence. So, I sort of started exploring that conflict a little bit and where I landed was at, ‘No, the purpose of business is for society and the planet and it should do so at a profit, but profit isn’t the reason of being.’ So, that’s where I picked up this whole exploration. Waste360: What was your initial inspiration for starting TerraCycle and eventually the Loop shopping system? Tom Szaky: TerraCycle, for me, was inspired around garbage and around how people don’t like garbage and pay to discard it. That's a big issue, and although everything one day becomes waste, the innovation is relatively small. That, to me, was a really interesting opportunity, and that’s how TerraCycle began—starting with the organic fertilizer and then emerging to recycling programs and other exciting things. Fast forward to a few years ago in 2016 or 2017, we were thinking, ‘Is recycling really the foundational solution to waste?’ And we realized that it is a solution for the symptom of waste but not the root cause of waste. That began a big exploration that landed us launching Loop, which was announced in January and went live in May. Waste360: How are things going with Loop since the pilot program has expanded into new areas? What kind of feedback have you received from that project so far? Tom Szaky: Loop went live on May 14 in France and on May 21 with Kroger and Walgreens in the U.S. The launch is coming up in London in January 2020 with Tesco, in April 2020 in Germany and Canada and then in late 2020 with Australia and Japan. So, there’s a lot coming up. loop-tote.jpg In the platforms that are live today in the U.S. and France, we are finding that people really like Loop for two reasons: for the reuse and the design that it brings to the products in their home. And that was really interesting to see how much people gravitated to Loop because of the design. We are also seeing people are less sensitive on the price end of the project. People want to make sure the product itself is a reasonable price, but they’re open to paying a deposit equal to the value of the package, which is really quite exciting. Waste360: How is TerraCycle eliminating the idea of waste? Tom Szaky: We are doing that in four ways. One is that we help make things that are not recyclable recyclable. That is one of our major business units—we recycle everything from dirty diapers to cigarette butts and flexible food packaging to toothbrushes. Our second division focuses on how do we integrate waste back into consumer products? For example, ocean plastic into shampoo bottles and many other such examples. But again, always with major brands. The third is Loop—moving from disposable to durable consumption. We also have an emerging division around diagnostics, which looks at certain waste streams that carry diagnosable samples, like the saliva on your toothbrush or the fecal matter in your child’s diaper, and are creating a solution to that. For example, many toothbrushes have saliva samples, razor blades have skin samples, tampons have menstrual blood and kitty litter can contain cat urine and fecal matter from the pet. In all those cases, we can create an opportunity—which we are developing now—where you buy a diagnostic kit and put in one of the samples from those waste streams and then when it comes back to us, we analyze it to tell you about the health of yourself, your child, your pet or whatever it may be. Waste360: Terracycle has partnered with organizations like Keep America BeautifulSubaru and Tweed, among others. What other notable partnerships are in the works for the company? Tom Szaky: Oh wow, yeah. We work with so many amazing brands and retailers across 21 markets. It’s hard for me to tell you about what is coming up because those will be formally announced as they come. SubaruTerraCycle-Partnership.jpg Waste360: You’ve authored four books, starred in a TerraCycle reality show and have received more than 200 social, environmental and business awards. What’s next for you personally and for TerraCycle? Tom Szaky: Personally, I am going to write another book. It will be the fifth book, most likely on marketing and communications. I am really enjoying my family now. I have two young boys—a 4 year old and 2 year old—so I am spending a lot of time with them. For the company, we are becoming more mature. We acquired a light bulb recycling company last year, and we are looking to start another acquisition this year and finish it next year. We are also looking toward expanding into more countries. I think that is very likely with our foundation that we’ve opened in Thailand and our for-profit we will be opening in Southeast Asian region countries, like Indonesia and Malaysia. We are looking at developing other business units, like how do we bring this idea of really high-end waste management and recycling to residential homes and small businesses? We are really trying to think through how to increase the geography but really increase the range of all the capabilities that we can bring. Waste360: What advice would you give people who are either reluctant to join the waste and recycling industry or those just getting their feet wet in the industry? Tom Szaky: I would say it’s an incredible opportunity right now and people are really focused on [waste and recycling]. We are in the middle of a garbage crisis. But because people are repulsed by waste, there is little innovation, so there is a great opportunity for an entrepreneur to get involved because it is very easy to innovate when there is very little innovation going on. Waste360: What keeps you motivated in your daily work? Tom Szaky: It’s the purpose. It’s the ability to know that what I am doing is not just to make money, it’s going to leave the world better than I found it. And that purpose really drives me. It’s nice and it’s a cherry on the cake that it is also financially rewarding, but what gets me out of bed is working to make the world better than I found it, and it’s a constant driver no matter what.