Posts with term Pantene X

First Came the Milkman. Then Came Loop.

How one company is working to eliminate the very idea of waste   Since 2001, where most of us have seen trash, Tom Szaky has seen potential. From cigarette butts to coffee capsules, Tom set out to recycle the hard-to-recycle products we use. His company, TerraCycle, offers everything from free recycling programs to industrial waste solutions. “But we can’t recycle our way out of the waste crisis,” Eric Rosen, publicist for TerraCycle said. “And [Tom] is the first to say if TerraCycle didn’t exist — or couldn’t exist — he’d be thrilled.” In other words, he would love to see a world where we produced zero waste to begin with. That’s where TerraCycle’s latest venture, Loop, comes in. “The next thing to do was to attack waste at the root cause,” Eric said. “If the economics are good, we can recycle virtually anything. But that’s not going to solve the problem.”   “The next step was to create a circular economy where there’s virtually no waste.” Loop was announced at the World Economic Forum in January 2019, proposing a new model of consumption whereby people can get their favorite home goods, cosmetics, and food products through a sustainable, circular system of pick-up and drop-off using reusable containers. It took off from there. “We immediately had thousands upon thousands of people who went to the website and were waitlisted,” Eric said. “So we knew right away that there was a clamoring for this. And we’ve continued to see that as we grow.” The company launched its pilot program that summer, beginning in Paris on May 14 and New York the following week. “We launched in a handful of states as a pilot,” Eric said. “We could not keep up with the number of requests coming in, like ‘When are you coming to our state?’ Certainly, the waste crisis, sustainability, and climate change are in the news, so people are well aware. There’s a sense now that they want to do something about it.” Loop already has a cleaning facility in Pennsylvania and a warehouse in New Jersey, which made New York a logical place to start. As the company scales, it selects cities within a 24-hour delivery range of both a cleaning facility and a warehouse, particularly for the frozen goods it provides. “We’ll add warehouses and cleaning facilities as we go, but that’s how the places were chosen,” Eric added. Loop will launch in the UK at the end of March, Toronto in June, and Japan towards the end of the year. Next will be Australia in 2021.       Customers receive their orders in a reusable tote and request a pick-up once items are empty. They’re then cleaned and refilled. Photos: Loop   The price of a Loop good is comparable to a regular one, plus a deposit for the packaging. Since it’s reusable, it becomes valuable. Take shampoo, for example. Before, you bought shampoo for its contents; once the bottle was empty, you would toss it. “In this instance, now the company owns the package and the package is an asset,” Eric said. “Customers put a deposit down on each pack. When that pack comes back, the deposit is returned to the consumer.” This deposit essentially sits in an account. You can opt to let it remain there as you continue to buy products through Loop; or, once you’re done, you can request the deposit back.   The brand owns the package, so they want that package back. This inherently makes the process a circular one, removing waste from the equation. While Loop is currently e-commerce only, “we will be in-store at some point in 2020 in the United States,” Eric explained. With retail partners like Kroger and Walgreens stateside, Carrefour in Paris and Loblaws in Canada, you might find a Loop aisle at a grocer near you. “The process will work virtually the same,” Eric said. “You’ll be able to bring your shipping tote into the store, where there will be an aisle with all the Loop products and packaging.” You shop, pay for the product, and bring it home, as you would any other pet food or ice cream pint. Then, as soon as you finish the pack, you bring it back. That store would then send it back to Loop to be cleaned, sanitized, refilled, and shipped back out to another consumer. In many ways, Loop seems like the future. But it draws on our current thinking and behavior — and a model that dates back to the 1950s. “When you finish your normal plastic shampoo, consumers are pretty accustomed at this point to dropping it in the blue bin. Now, as opposed to dropping that in that bin, you just drop it back into shipping tote.”   “We don’t want to change behavior. That becomes a much harder proposition.” Loop isn’t the first to discover the effectiveness of the pick-up/drop-off model. Remember the milkman? “We were seeing that model up until the 1950s when all of a sudden we turned to all of this disposable packaging for convenience. Obviously we’ve created so much waste that it’s no longer effective.   “The idea behind Loop is exactly that: it’s the milkman model where the brand owns the pack and we come collect it, sanitize it, and fill it again.” But instead of homogenous glass bottles, companies are investing in containers you want to show off. “One of the things we’re finding is that people appreciate and want these packs because they’re so pretty. Like the Pantene bottles: people want to leave them on a counter.” Loop has very specific specs companies need to adhere to when creating packaging. Aesthetics is “not a requirement, but it certainly is playing a role in how these are being designed.” Most importantly, they need to be durable, cleanable, and circular (by having an end-of-life solution). “It’s not necessarily material,” Eric said. “Plastic is not necessarily the demon, it’s the single-use that’s the problem. So these packs have to be durable.” “Häagen-Dazs, which has made an absolutely beautiful pack, had a whole R&D team develop it. We have designers at Loop who can help develop the packaging, but, depending on the size of the company, some are big enough to do it on their own.” Just how durable these containers are varies from company to company. “Obviously these containers are going to get banged up,” Eric said. “And it’s up to the company to determine when they want to take them out of circulation. When that time comes, the containers themselves are recyclable. They’ll be turned back into themselves by TerraCycle.” Eric said the company is working on a public-facing Life-Cycle Assessment, which will highlight the environmental benefits of these containers—transportation costs included—as opposed to single-use packaging that most often ends up in landfills. Ultimately, the dream would be to have a whole store filled with reusable product containers. “We would create an entirely circular economy,” he said. “There would be absolutely no waste. That is the ultimate goal.” TerraCycle’s next project with this goal in mind? ReDyper, a partnership in which parents send in soiled Dyper diapers to TerraCycle’s facility for composting. It was announced this week.  

Loop Wants To Make Personal Care, Grocery And Cleaning Goods Shopping Waste-Free, But Will Consumers Buy Into It?

There’s never been a better time for beauty brands trying to save the planet. Retail interest is growing in sustainable packaging and eco-conscious ingredient sourcing, and brands that appear to be ignoring their environmental footprints are met with swift disapproval. But the movement to green goods hasn’t yet translated into many consumers going out of their ways to make purchases prioritizing the fight against climate change.

Loop, a retail platform with a closed-loop (get it?) distribution system, is a high-profile test of people’s willingness to factor sustainability into their shopping habits. It’s the brainchild of Tom Szaky, co-founder and CEO of recycling company TerraCycle, whose dream of zero-waste consumption caused him to look into the past to inform the future. Szaky compares Loop to mid-20th century milkmen regularly dropping off glass milk bottles and picking up finished ones. Its distribution system is based on refillable packaging and doorstep delivery. Can Loop alter practices in a consumer packaged goods space in which disposability has been paramount? Heather Crawford, VP of marketing and e-commerce for Loop Global, argues its convenience is transformative. “This platform is actually designed for consumers to be able to easily adhere to,” she says. “Loop takes into consideration the fact that changing behavior is difficult. So, in the Loop model, people simply put their empties in the tote and send it back. It is no different for a consumer than putting empties in a recyclable bin or garbage can.” About a third of waste generated in this country is recycled, and I’m judicious about doing my part to keep the virtuous cycle going. Loop’s promise to further cut down on the waste stream I generate is incredibly appealing. As a realist, however, I know there’s only so much I will sacrifice to protect the environment. With its shippable totes and simple e-commerce interface, Loop seemed like a sustainability endeavor I could get behind and, distinct from in-store refillable programs, perhaps stick with. So, I decided to trial the service to see just how practical it is for the average consumer. Loop’s pilot program launched last spring in Paris and New York City. At the time, it was limited to 5,000 households in each city. Since then, Crawford points out, it’s added six new states of coverage as well as struck retail partnerships with Walgreens and Kroger. Currently, Loop is offered through the retailers’ websites, but its goal is to establish a presence in their stores this year. I’m located in New York City, and opted to try Loop’s online store, and stick to beauty and personal care orders. Loop’s assortment contains 31 beauty and personal care products from nine brands: Pantene, Ren, Soapply, Love Beauty and Planet, The Body Shop, Gillette, Venus, Crest and Puretto, an in-house line. Some brands and categories such as bath and body have more robust selections than others. A lonely mouthwash constitutes the entire oral care category. The majority of products carried by Loop are in the grocery and household categories, but Crawford says beauty is a key growth category, and the number of brands within it are excepted to rise this year. She declined to name brands that are coming to Loop. Loop customers order products packaged in refillable containers on its website, and the products arrive at their doorsteps in eco-friendly totes. After consumers are finished with them, Loop picks up the empty products and cleans the packaging to be used again. While browsing the grocery category, I noticed several items were out of stock. Beauty didn’t have that problem. The items were ready for purchase, and I bought two. Specifically, I purchased a 300-ml. bottle of Ren’s Atlantic Kelp and Magnesium Anti-Fatigue Body Wash, and an 8-oz. bottle of Soapply’s Liquid Hand Wash. Loop’s customers pay deposit fees. The deposit fees I paid ranged from $1.25 for Soapply’s Liquid Hand Wash to $5 for Ren products. On top of the deposit fees, there’s a $15 fee for the tote that products are delivered in. The deposits are 100% refundable once products are returned to Loop. Still, for me, the fees tacked on $21 to a $48 order. The price for my order of hand soap and body wash totaled $88.56, with tax. Thankfully, Loop comped the amount for the purposes of this piece because sustainability sure doesn’t come cheap. Product pricing on Loop can vary from product pricing elsewhere. Soapply’s Liquid Hand Wash cost $22.50 on the brand’s website. On Loop, without the bottle deposit, it was $23.75. Surprisingly, Ren’s Atlantic Kelp and Magnesium Anti-Fatigue Body Wash was significantly less expensive on Loop. It rang in at $24.30 versus $28 on its own site. After I placed my order, it was delivered via UPS the following evening. My two small beauty products arrived in a large tote. Apparently, there are no small totes at the moment. The delivery is fully eco-friendly, from the materials the tote is made of to the packing materials keeping the products safe and secure. I live and work in a very small one-bedroom Brooklyn apartment with minimal closet space (read: none). Holding on to the bulky tote while I enjoyed my products wasn’t practical or appealing to me. To declutter, I promptly decanted the bottles into empties I already had, and returned them along with the tote to my local UPS store to be shipped back with the included free shipping label. Loop allowed me to retain the deposit amounts in my online account for future orders or have them refunded to my card. I chose the refund, and the money was credited back to me in seven days.

“Loop takes into consideration the fact that changing behavior is difficult.”


Loop’s process wasn’t onerous, and lived up to the promise of not forcing me to change my conduct in a manner that would stop me from shopping at it. The company plans to reduce consumers’ efforts even more by teaming up with retail partners to set up Loop at stores to enable consumers to shop dedicated Loop aisles and return refillable products to the stores they’re frequenting. Loop didn’t specify when it will arrive inside stores or which physical stores will take part in its program. Despite people meticulously separating out waste materials into recycling bins, 91% of plastics wind up in landfills. That statistic emphasizes to me the importance of Loop’s system, and makes the endeavor a definite plus in my estimation. I’m heartened knowing the Soapply and Ren bottles I received aren’t destined for the ocean. The benefit for the planet is evident, but I wondered what the brands, specifically Soapply, the sole indie beauty brand currently on Loop’s site, gain by joining its selection. Asked about Soapply’s involvement, founder Mera McGrew responds, “Being selected to launch with Loop alongside all the major players in the consumer goods space was an exciting recognition of the leadership role Soapply is playing in the market. The immediate success we had on the platform, the continued growth we’ve seen, and the positive consumer response to Soapply have not only helped our bottom line, but continued to solidify our role as an emerging leader within the consumer goods space.” Prior to Loop, Soapply had a refill system with bottles made from recycled glass that replenish its 8-oz. bottles three times at a discounted price of $31.50 for 25.4 ounces. For the brand, the value of Loop is to amplify education and impact. “Startups and indie brands have resource limitations that require a constant reassessment of costs and a clear understanding of potential benefits connected with any decision or investment,” says McGrew. “Soapply is a public benefit corporation, so working collaboratively with Loop gives Soapply an opportunity to reiterate some of our core values and be a part of a larger system that is looking to empower individual consumers to help tackle the world’s waste problem.” Soapply is the only indie personal care brand available in Loop’s selection. Other brands are Pantene, Ren, Love Beauty and Planet, The Body Shop, Gillette, Venus, Crest and Puretto, an in-house line. Brands can’t partake in Loop unless they have sustainable packaging. Loop’s requirements are exacting. All containers have to withstand sanitization and survive over 100 uses. “Any business, regardless of how big or small, knows that any changes to packaging can represent a lot of dollar signs—sourcing, designing, changing production lines, etc.,” says McGrew. “If a product’s packaging isn’t already reusable and refillable, updating packaging for Loop would certainly represent a cost to any brand.” Crawford says, “We want to partner with companies large and small that want to redesign packaging to be durable and reusable. We have indie beauty brands which are in the process of on-boarding, and we’ve had very strong response to those we’ve launched thus far, with initial penetration rates [or percentages of the target market they’ve reached] of 35%-plus on new beauty product launches.” My experience with Loop demonstrates it makes eco-oriented beauty and personal care consumption pretty painless, but not universally affordable. A huge feat will be a program that’s attainable for low- to middle-income families. As Loop expands and scales, it will be fascinating to watch how it overcomes that large hurdle. In its current iteration, though, it’s undoubtedly a step in the right direction.

Has this company solved the recycling crisis?

The next time you reach into your freezer for a pint of Haagen Dazs Amaretto Black Cherry Almond ice cream, or perhaps grab a bottle of Pantene Moisture Renewal shampoo, you might be putting your hands on something unusual in the world of consumer goods — a reusable container.   More than 150 companies have signed up to work with Loop, an innovative alternative to Amazon where the products ± as well as the box they arrive in — are all shipped back to where they came from.   We are talking reusable here, not recyclable. The cold container for ice cream, as well as the shampoo bottle, are made of durable products and designed to be returned, cleaned and reused dozens, if not hundreds of times.   Loop is the brainchild of entrepreneur Tom Szaky, who created TerraCycle as a Princeton drop out to recycle the food waste from the university dining halls into fertilizer — using worms. His company is now worth $20 million, and he’s branching out.   Customers order their products online from a list of name brand items, all delivered via UPS in a sturdy tote. The empties go back into the tote, which UPS takes back to Loop’s New Jersey processing center. They are cleaned and refilled by the suppliers to be shipped out by Loop again. Even though consumers are buying just the contents, the products cost about the same as those sold in single-use containers — in part to offset the cost of the development and manufacturing of the more durable containers, as well as cleaning and refilling.   Although the selection is limited compared to Amazon, there is still an array of well-known staples to fill up the pantry: Hellman’s mayoTropicana orange juiceColgate toothpasteHidden Valley ranch dressingTide detergent, among many others — courtesy of some of the world’s largest consumer goods companies, including Procter & Gamble, Unilever, Nestlé, PepsiCo, Danone, Mars Petcare and Mondelēz International.   Currently, Loop has about 25,000 customers in its test markets in New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Vermont, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Maryland and Washington, D.C., in the United States, and in Paris, France. But they are in the process of expanding across the United States and internationally, including the United Kingdom, Canada, Germany and Japan. Watch how Szaky says he plans to grow his business into a juggernaut. Loop just recently announced it was partnering with Walgreens and Kroger to start offering its products in stores. So you can perhaps pick up that pint of that Amaretto Black Cherry Almond ice cream and return the container the very next day. Some video imagery courtesy of UPS and Loop.

Big Brands Struggle to Quit Plastic

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

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

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

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

The Modern Milk Man: Loop Ships Your Favorite Brands in Durable, Reusable Packaging

From food manufacturers to e-commerce giants, the pressure is on to have at least some form of sustainable business practice as more consumers align with environmentally-friendly businesses. Loop is one way some larger brands are starting to dabble in becoming greener without resorting to completely uproot their existing supply chains. Created by recycling company TerraCycle, the online platform allows customers to shop from their favorite brands in a cleaner, more environment-friendly manner using reusable containers. After filling out your online shopping bag via the Loop online shopping platform, the products are stored in several sturdy, reusable containers before sending the bulk of them to you. Users simply just have to pay a small deposit for the durable, multi-use package designs—not unlike glass milk bottles from the days of milkmen. Rather than using discardable containers that usually end up in the trash, food items like your favorite Häagen-Dazs ice cream are stored in containers designed specifically for the product (in this case, the ice cream is stored in a stainless steel container). Not only is it greener, but the reusable container keeps the ice cream frozen for much longer—proving that functional upgrade considerations also went into the design of the new containers. https://www.solidsmack.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/09/Loop-2-1100x397.png Says the company: “Most products today are “linear” – thrown away after they’re used (typically once). This one-way model sends valuable resources to the trash. In a “circular” system, that line is bent into a circle that keeps resources in use and cycling through the system for as long as possible. The goal of the circular economy is to make those circles as tight as possible by reducing the number of steps (and the resulting energy, transportation and resources needed) to get our products from useless to useful again.” This call towards reusable packaging is inspiring brands to think about how they design their products. Toothpaste, for instance, doesn’t fit well in a reusable container; so Unilever has created several chewable toothpaste tablets which are stored in a tin (think of it as chewing gum which cleans your mouth). Participating Brands and Updated Package Design Details (via Packaging World):
  • Pantene is introducing a unique bottle made with lightweight, durable aluminum for its shampoo and conditioner.
  • Tide is participating in Loop with its Tide purclean plant-based laundry detergent in a new durable bottle made from stainless steel with a simple twist-cap and easy-pour spout.
  • Cascade, continually looking for ways to make the dish cleaning experience better and environmentally friendly, has developed a new ultra-durable packaging for Cascade ActionPacs, which enable consumers to skip the prewash.
  • Crest is introducing new Crest Platinum mouthwash, a unique formula that delivers fresh breath and stain prevention in a sustainable, refillable glass bottle.
  • Ariel and Febreze are participating with durable, refillable packaging that is also available in stores, testing a new direct-to-consumer refill-and-reuse model.
Once you’re done with the containers, all you have to do is store the containers back in the provided tote bag (no cleaning needed) and call Loop to pick it up. You’ll get your deposit back and have free space to store new shopping items.
Meanwhile, the empty containers taken by Loop are cleaned and sanitized before being returned to the manufacturers for a refill. According to TerraCycle co-founder and CEO Tom Szaky, Loop encourages companies to use their containers at least a hundred times before considering to make new ones. Could this be the future of food packaging? Only time will tell.

‘Plastic recycling is a myth': what really happens to your rubbish?

recycle now we do An alarm sounds, the blockage is cleared, and the line at Green Recycling in Maldon, Essex, rumbles back into life. A momentous river of garbage rolls down the conveyor: cardboard boxes, splintered skirting board, plastic bottles, crisp packets, DVD cases, printer cartridges, countless newspapers, including this one. Odd bits of junk catch the eye, conjuring little vignettes: a single discarded glove. A crushed Tupperware container, the meal inside uneaten. A photograph of a smiling child on an adult’s shoulders. But they are gone in a moment. The line at Green Recycling handles up to 12 tonnes of waste an hour. “We produce 200 to 300 tonnes a day,” says Jamie Smith, Green Recycling’s general manager, above the din. We are standing three storeys up on the green health-and-safety gangway, looking down the line. On the tipping floor, an excavator is grabbing clawfuls of trash from heaps and piling it into a spinning drum, which spreads it evenly across the conveyor. Along the belt, human workers pick and channel what is valuable (bottles, cardboard, aluminium cans) into sorting chutes. “Our main products are paper, cardboard, plastic bottles, mixed plastics, and wood,” says Smith, 40. “We’re seeing a significant rise in boxes, thanks to Amazon.” By the end of the line, the torrent has become a trickle. The waste stands stacked neatly in bales, ready to be loaded on to trucks. From there, it will go – well, that is when it gets complicated. You drink a Coca-Cola, throw the bottle into the recycling, put the bins out on collection day and forget about it. But it doesn’t disappear. Everything you own will one day become the property of this, the waste industry, a £250bn global enterprise determined to extract every last penny of value from what remains. It starts with materials recovery facilities (MRFs) such as this one, which sort waste into its constituent parts. From there, the materials enter a labyrinthine network of brokers and traders. Some of that happens in the UK, but much of it – about half of all paper and cardboard, and two-thirds of plastics – will be loaded on to container ships to be sent to Europe or Asia for recycling. Paper and cardboard goes to mills; glass is washed and re-used or smashed and melted, like metal and plastic. Food, and anything else, is burned or sent to landfill. Or, at least, that’s how it used to work. Then, on the first day of 2018, China, the world’s largest market for recycled waste, essentially shut its doors. Under its National Sword policy, China prohibited 24 types of waste from entering the country, arguing that what was coming in was too contaminated. The policy shift was partly attributed to the impact of a documentary, Plastic China, which went viral before censors erased it from China’s internet. The film follows a family working in the country’s recycling industry, where humans pick through vast dunes of western waste, shredding and melting salvageable plastic into pellets that can be sold to manufacturers. It is filthy, polluting work – and badly paid. The remainder is often burned in the open air. The family lives alongside the sorting machine, their 11-year-old daughter playing with a Barbie pulled from the rubbish. Westminster council sent 82% of all household waste – including that put in recycling bins – for incineration in 2017/18 For recyclers such as Smith, National Sword was a huge blow. “The price of cardboard has probably halved in the last 12 months,” he says. “The price of plastics has plummeted to the extent that it isn’t worth recycling. If China doesn’t take plastic, we can’t sell it.” Still, that waste has to go somewhere. The UK, like most developed nations, produces more waste than it can process at home: 230m tonnes a year – about 1.1kg per person per day. (The US, the world’s most wasteful nation, produces 2kg per person per day.) Quickly, the market began flooding any country that would take the trash: Thailand, Indonesia, Vietnam, countries with some of the world’s highest rates of what researchers call “waste mismanagement” – rubbish left or burned in open landfills, illegal sites or facilities with inadequate reporting, making its final fate difficult to trace. The present dumping ground of choice is Malaysia. In October last year, a Greenpeace Unearthed investigation found mountains of British and European waste in illegal dumps there: Tesco crisp packets, Flora tubs and recycling collection bags from three London councils. As in China, the waste is often burned or abandoned, eventually finding its way into rivers and oceans. In May, the Malaysian government began turning back container ships, citing public health concerns. Thailand and India have announced bans on the import of foreign plastic waste. But still the rubbish flows.
 Plastic waste ready for inspection before being sent to Malaysia; the UK produces more refuse than it can process at home – about 1.1kg per person per day.
Plastic waste ready for inspection before being sent to Malaysia; the UK produces more refuse than it can process at home – about 1.1kg per person per day. Photograph: AFP/Getty Images We want our waste hidden. Green Recycling is tucked away at the end of an industrial estate, surrounded by sound-deflecting metal boards. Outside, a machine called an Air Spectrum masks the acrid odour with the smell of cotton bedsheets. But, all of a sudden, the industry is under intense scrutiny. In the UK, recycling rates have stagnated in recent years, while National Sword and funding cuts have led to more waste being burned in incinerators and energy-from-waste plants. (Incineration, while often criticised for being polluting and an inefficient source of energy, is today preferred to landfill, which emits methane and can leach toxic chemicals.) Westminster council sent 82% of all household waste – including that put in recycling bins – for incineration in 2017/18. Some councils have debated giving up recycling altogether. And yet the UK is a successful recycling nation: 45.7% of all household waste is classed as recycled (although that number indicates only that it is sent for recycling, not where it ends up.) In the US, that figure is 25.8%. One of the UK’s largest waste companies, attempted to ship used nappies abroad in consignments marked as waste paper If you look at plastics, the picture is even bleaker. Of the 8.3bn tonnes of virgin plastic produced worldwide, only 9% has been recycled, according to a 2017 Science Advances paper entitled Production, Use And Fate Of All Plastics Ever Made. “I think the best global estimate is maybe we’re at 20% [per year] globally right now,” says Roland Geyer, its lead author, a professor of industrial ecology at the University of California, Santa Barbara. Academics and NGOs doubt those numbers, due to the uncertain fate of our waste exports. In June, one of the UK’s largest waste companies, Biffa, was found guilty of attempting to ship used nappies, sanitary towels and clothing abroad in consignments marked as waste paper. “I think there’s a lot of creative accounting going on to push the numbers up,” Geyer says. “It’s really a complete myth when people say that we’re recycling our plastics,” says Jim Puckett, the executive director of the Seattle-based Basel Action Network, which campaigns against the illegal waste trade. “It all sounded good. ‘It’s going to be recycled in China!’ I hate to break it to everyone, but these places are routinely dumping massive amounts of [that] plastic and burning it on open fires.” *** Recycling is as old as thrift. The Japanese were recycling paper in the 11th century; medieval blacksmiths made armour from scrap metal. During the second world war, scrap metal was made into tanks and women’s nylons into parachutes. “The trouble started when, in the late 70s, we began trying to recycle household waste,” says Geyer. This was contaminated with all sorts of undesirables: non-recyclable materials, food waste, oils and liquids that rot and spoil the bales. At the same time, the packaging industry flooded our homes with cheap plastic: tubs, films, bottles, individually shrink-wrapped vegetables. Plastic is where recycling gets most controversial. Recycling aluminium, say, is straightforward, profitable and environmentally sound: making a can from recycled aluminium reduces its carbon footprint by up to 95%. But with plastic, it is not that simple. While virtually all plastics can be recycled, many aren’t because the process is expensive, complicated and the resulting product is of lower quality than what you put in. The carbon-reduction benefits are also less clear. “You ship it around, then you have to wash it, then you have to chop it up, then you have to re-melt it, so the collection and recycling itself has its own environmental impact,” says Geyer.
 A materials recovery facility in Milton Keynes where waste is sorted. In the UK, there are 28 different recycling labels that can appear on packaging
A materials recovery facility in Milton Keynes where waste is sorted. In the UK, there are 28 different recycling labels that can appear on packaging. Photograph: Alamy Household recycling requires sorting at a vast scale. This is why most developed countries have colour-coded bins: to keep the end product as pure as possible. In the UK, Recycle Now lists 28 different recycling labels that can appear on packaging. There is the mobius loop (three twisted arrows), which indicates a product can technically be recycled; sometimes that symbol contains a number between one and seven, indicating the plastic resin from which the object is made. There is the green dot (two green arrows embracing), which indicates that the producer has contributed to a European recycling scheme. There are labels that say “Widely Recycled” (acceptable by 75% of local councils) and “Check Local Recycling” (between 20% and 75% of councils). Since National Sword, sorting has become even more crucial, as overseas markets demand higher-quality material. “They don’t want to be the world’s dumping ground, quite rightly,” Smith says, as we walk along the Green Recycling line. About halfway, four women in hi-vis and caps pull out large chunks of cardboard and plastic films, which machines struggle with. There is a low rumble in the air and a thick layer of dust on the gangway. Green Recycling is a commercial MRF: it takes waste from schools, colleges and local businesses. That means lower volume, but better margins, as the company can charge clients directly and maintain control over what it collects. “The business is all about turning straw into gold,” says Smith, referencing Rumpelstiltskin. “But it’s hard – and it’s become a lot harder.” Towards the end of the line is the machine that Smith hopes will change that. Last year, Green Recycling became the first MRF in the UK to invest in Max, a US-made, artificially intelligent sorting machine. Inside a large clear box over the conveyor, a robotic suction arm marked FlexPickerTM is zipping back and forth over the belt, picking tirelessly. “He’s looking for plastic bottles first,” Smith says. “He does 60 picks a minute. Humans will pick between 20 and 40, on a good day.” A camera system identifies the waste rolling by, displaying a detailed breakdown on a nearby screen. The machine is intended not to replace humans, but to augment them. “He’s picking three tonnes of waste a day that otherwise our human guys would have to leave,” Smith says. In fact, the robot has created a new human job to maintain it: this is done by Danielle, whom the crew refer to as “Max’s mum”. The benefits of automation, Smith says, are twofold: more material to sell and less waste that the company needs to pay to have burned afterwards. Margins are thin and landfill tax is £91 a tonne. *** Smith is not alone in putting his faith in technology. With consumers and the government outraged at the plastics crisis, the waste industry is scrambling to solve the problem. One great hope is chemical recycling: turning problem plastics into oil or gas through industrial processes. “It recycles the kind of plastics that mechanical recycling can’t look at: the pouches, the sachets, the black plastics,” says Adrian Griffiths, the founder of Swindon-based Recycling Technologies. The idea found its way to Griffiths, a former management consultant, by accident, after a mistake in a Warwick University press release. “They said they could turn any old plastic back into a monomer. At the time, they couldn’t,” Griffiths says. Intrigued, Griffiths got in touch. He ended up partnering with the researchers to launch a company that could do this. By moving from disposable to reusable, you unlock epic design opportunities At Recycling Technologies’ pilot plant in Swindon, plastic (Griffiths says it can process any type) is fed into a towering steel cracking chamber, where it is separated at extremely high temperatures into gas and an oil, plaxx, which can be used as a fuel or feedstock for new plastic. While the global mood has turned against plastic, Griffiths is a rare defender of it. “Plastic packaging has actually done an incredible service for the world, because it has reduced the amount of glass, metal and paper that we were using,” he says. “The thing that worries me more than the plastic problem is global warming. If you use more glass, more metal, those materials have a much higher carbon footprint.” The company recently launched a trial scheme with Tesco and is already working on a second facility, in Scotland. Eventually, Griffiths hopes to sell the machines to recycling facilities worldwide. “We need to stop shipping recycling abroad,” he says. “No civilised society should be getting rid of its waste to a developing country.” There is cause for optimism: in December 2018, the UK government published a comprehensive new waste strategy, partly in response to National Sword. Among its proposals: a tax on plastic packaging containing less than 30% recycled material; a simplified labelling system; and means to force companies to take responsibility for the plastic packaging they produce. They hope to force the industry to invest in recycling infrastructure at home. Meanwhile, the industry is being forced to adapt: in May, 186 countries passed measures to track and control the export of plastic waste to developing countries, while more than 350 companies have signed a global commitment to eliminate the use of single-use plastics by 2025. Yet such is the torrent of humanity’s refuse that these efforts may not be enough. Recycling rates in the west are stalling and packaging use is set to soar in developing countries, where recycling rates are low. If National Sword has shown us anything, it is that recycling – while needed – simply isn’t enough to solve our waste crisis. *** Perhaps there is an alternative. Since Blue Planet II brought the plastic crisis to our attention, a dying trade is having a resurgence in Britain: the milkman. More of us are choosing to have milk bottles delivered, collected and re-used. Similar models are springing up: zero-waste shops that require you to bring your own containers; the boom in refillable cups and bottles. It is as if we have remembered that the old environmental slogan “Reduce, re-use, recycle” wasn’t only catchy, but listed in order of preference. Tom Szaky wants to apply the milkman model to almost everything you buy. The bearded, shaggy-haired Hungarian-Canadian is a veteran of the waste industry: he founded his first recycling startup as a student at Princeton, selling worm-based fertiliser out of re-used bottles. That company, TerraCycle, is now a recycling giant, with operations in 21 countries. In 2017, TerraCycle worked with Head & Shoulders on a shampoo bottle made from recycled ocean plastics. The product launched at the World Economic Forum in Davos and was an immediate hit. Proctor & Gamble, which makes Head & Shoulders, was keen to know what was next, so Szaky pitched something far more ambitious. The result is Loop, which launched trials in France and the US this spring and will arrive in Britain this winter. It offers a variety of household products – from manufacturers including P&G, Unilever, Nestlé and Coca-Cola – in reusable packaging. The items are available online or through exclusive retailers. Customers pay a small deposit, and the used containers are eventually collected by a courier or dropped off in store (Walgreens in the US, Tesco in the UK), washed, and sent back to the producer to be refilled. “Loop is a not a product company; it’s a waste management company,” says Szaky. “We’re just looking at waste before it begins.” Many of the Loop designs are familiar: refillable glass bottles of Coca-Cola and Tropicana; aluminium bottles of Pantene. But others are being rethought entirely. “By moving from disposable to reusable, you unlock epic design opportunities,” says Szaky. For example: Unilever is working on toothpaste tablets that dissolve into paste under running water; Häagen-Dazs ice-cream comes in a stainless steel tub that stays cold long enough for picnics. Even the deliveries come in a specially designed insulated bag, to cut down on cardboard. At Recycling Technologies in Swindon, nearly all plastics can be turned into plaxx, an oil that can be used to make new plastic. At Recycling Technologies in Swindon, nearly all plastics can be turned into plaxx, an oil that can be used to make new plastic. Photograph: Recycling Technologies Ltd Tina Hill, a Paris-based copywriter, signed up to Loop soon after its launch in France. “It’s super-easy,” she says. “It’s a small deposit, €3 [per container]. What I like about it is that they have things I already use: olive oil, washing pods.” Hill describes herself as “pretty green: we recycle anything that can be recycled, we buy organic”. By combining Loop with shopping at local zero-waste stores, Hills has helped her family radically reduce its reliance on single-use packaging. “The only downside is that the prices can be a little high. We don’t mind spending a little bit more to support the things that you believe in, but on some things, like pasta, it’s prohibitive.” A major advantage to Loop’s business model, Szaky says, is that it forces packaging designers to prioritise durability over disposability. In future, Szaky anticipates that Loop will be able to email users warnings for expiry dates and other advice to reduce their waste footprint. The milkman model is about more than just the bottle: it makes us think about what we consume and what we throw away. “Garbage is something that we want out of sight and mind – it’s dirty, it’s gross, it smells bad,” says Szaky. That is what needs to change. It is tempting to see plastic piled up in Malaysian landfills and assume recycling is a waste of time, but that isn’t true. In the UK, recycling is largely a success story, and the alternatives – burning our waste or burying it – are worse. Instead of giving up on recycling, Szaky says, we should all use less, re-use what we can and treat our waste like the waste industry sees it: as a resource. Not the ending of something, but the beginning of something else. “We don’t call it waste; we call it materials,” says Green Recycling’s Smith, back in Maldon. Down in the yard, a haulage truck is being loaded with 35 bales of sorted cardboard. From here, Smith will send it to a mill in Kent for pulping. It will be new cardboard boxes within the fortnight – and someone else’s rubbish soon after.