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Consumer Demand for Better Packaging Might Just Save the Planet

  When he founded TerraCycle in 2001, Tom Szaky was in the business of keeping tough-to-recycle products out of landfills. In 2019, he expanded that mandate with a service called Loop, which focuses on reusing packaging instead of merely recycling it. In partnership with several well-known brands, Loop offers household goods from olive oil to laundry detergent in reusable containers that are either delivered direct to consumers or available through two major retail outlets, then collects, cleans and refills them—much like a modern-day milkman. When Szaky sought to better understand why people were purchasing items through Loop, he was surprised by the results. Survey data revealed that two-thirds of Loop customers were mainly drawn to the program because of its packaging design; only one-third prioritized the sustainability aspect. Since Loop is all about saving the planet by eliminating waste, Szaky had expected the inverse. “A better experience with packaging is the primary driver,” Szaky told Adweek. “The secondary driver is sustainability.” Earlier this week, during a presentation at the National Retail Federation’s annual conference in New York, Szaky stressed the importance of aesthetics in consumer decision-making. While people often buy shampoo twice as often as they buy conditioner, Loop shoppers purchase an equal amount of Pantene shampoo and conditioner, according to Szaky. Why? Although he didn’t disclose exact figures, internal polling revealed that people thought the bottles—which come in a matching gold-and-white color scheme, and feature images of sea life—looked good together. But it’s not just about beauty. Szaky argued that tubs of Häagen-Dazs ice cream sold on Loop are simply better than the typical cardboard cartons found at grocery stores because they’re dual-layered, providing thermal insulation so that consumers’ hands remain warm while the ice cream stays frozen. The inside of the container is also concave, making the ice cream easier to scoop out. Szaky added that even the product itself can benefit from better packaging. The team at Coca-Cola apparently told him Coke tastes best in a glass bottle, then aluminum, then plastic. One key change that allows for better packaging design through the Loop system, as opposed to a convenience store or vending machine, is the transfer of package ownership from consumer to manufacturer, Szaky said. When a company is responsible for a durable container meant for multiple uses, it’s treated like an asset as opposed to the cost of goods sold. Since Loop requires a security deposit with each purchase, companies are given extra leeway to invest even more money into their packaging design, generating better functions and features. “Can you imagine what you could do with a package budget of $30 per unit?” he said. He noted that customers have shown little to no sensitivity to the deposit price, either. A can of Clorox disinfecting wipes, for instance, costs $5.49 to purchase, plus an additional $10 deposit. Despite this, Szaky said Clorox wipes are one of the top five best selling products on the site. Last week, another Clorox brand, Glad, began selling sandwich bags on Loop for $4.99 with a $10 deposit. Once ordered, consumers receive 100 plastic bags in a square metal tin, along with a yellow zippered pouch to put the used bags in for recycling later. According to Nick Higgins, Glad’s marketing director, the package took six weeks to design, and consumer feedback throughout the process was positive. “If you think about our traditional manufacturing system, it’s been engineered to deliver products in a way that people use them and then it’s their responsibility for how they ultimately want to dispose of them,” Higgins said. While it’s still too early to tell how Glad’s metal tin is performing on Loop, Higgins said the brand is excited to gain insights into how people might reuse its products. “As a brand, we want to continue to make progress in this area,” he said. “Using something like Loop as a learning partner to understand consumer habits and practices, and the business models associated with that, is what makes this really attractive to us.” Loop, which debuted in May 2019 in select cities in the U.S. and France, is scheduled to roll out in the U.K., Canada, Germany and Japan later this year. Presently, the platform works with retailers Walgreens and Kroger, and about 100 major CPG conglomerates, including Pepsi, Nestle, Unilever and Procter & Gamble. While Loop has yet to make an official announcement, Szaky said the company will soon reveal new partnerships with a fast-food company and high-end cosmetics brand.         Szaky added that since Loop began, it has, on average, added a new brand every two days and a new retailer every three weeks. While the program remains in test mode, he’s optimistic that Loop will continue to grow. “Disposability is our competition,” he said. “It’s an easy enemy to hate, thank God.”

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!  

The Problem with Beauty Packaging

image Consider an average deodorant tube. Packaged in a hard plastic case, your deodorant contains lots of tiny plastic components for twist-ability that are not recyclable. This means that out of the all deodorants sold in the U.S. last year, most of them were tossed into the trash, with many of them ending up in the ocean. (Yes, garbage often ends up in sewers, rivers, and the ocean on its way to the landfill.) The result? Whales with bellies full of plastic, vanishing coral reefs, and a patch of trash three times the size of France floating in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. Plastic waste is so pervasive that it has been found at the furthest depths of the ocean, and as plastic containers break down, tiny plastic fragments invisible to the naked eye (microplastics) end up in waterways and eventually, into the very fish we eat. Still, the plastic containers filling your bathroom cabinet and makeup bag are not the only troublemakers. It’s the ingredients inside the bottles that are also wrecking havoc with the environment. From glitter, which is often made from plastic and washed down the drain, to face wipes, which are virtually indestructible, to the 14,000 tons of sunscreen collecting in the world’s reefs each year, the beauty industry’s environmental footprint is having long-term ramifications. Take sunscreen. Oxybenzone and octinoxate, two of the most common sunscreen ingredients, are toxic for coral reefs. Avobenzone, a common substitute for oxybenzone, could be just as dangerous. Experts estimate that 90 percent of all reefs will be dead by 2050 unless we ban these sunscreens altogether. As for ingredients like parabens and sulfates, well, most chemicals that are washed down the drain are unable to be filtered out in treatment plants, so they end up in our waterways, in our tap water, and eventually the ocean—an important point, considering American women use an average of 12 personal care products, each containing 168 different chemicals.

We Can't Recycle Out of This Problem

You’ll notice that your serums and moisturizers are often kept inside a little bag, which is inside a colored light-protectant bottle, with a special pump and applicator. Most of these different parts (especially colored plastic, along with pumps, which usually contain a metal spring) are considered “non recyclable.” While companies like TerraCycle are changing the game by recycling the "non-recyclable" (from coffee capsules to plastic gloves to toothbrushes and deodorant cases, TerraCycle can recycle almost any form of waste), it’s important to focus on buying brands already committed to clean, sustainable practices. “The packaging thing has become such a hot button issue,” says Follain founder, Tara Foley. “However I want people to remember that it's the ingredients inside the packaging that can make a huge, huge impact very quickly as well. It’s critical to ensure that the whole product, not just the packaging, is clean.” She notes that bio-based plastics and biodegradable plastics, often viewed as green alternatives by consumers, have environmental drawbacks of their own. Indeed, the process in which plant ingredients in your natural beauty products are farmed can affect local communities and ecosystems, as well as the product’s overall carbon footprint. With conventional beauty brands, their packaging might taut recyclability, but the catastrophic environmental impact of the chemicals used to make their products could potentially be worse. It’s also important to note that most beauty products use water in manufacturing and as a main ingredient (usually under the label of “aqua”). Water is a precious energy resource that we need to protect as we tackle climate change.

The Solution

Try an eco-audit of your own daily beauty and grooming regimen. Assess the number of products you buy and how much waste is produced as a result. The first step is to contact Terracycle to find out how to properly recycle the products you are currently using. (To make the process easier for yourself, keep a separate bin for recycling in your bathroom.) Loop, a new innovation from TerraCycle inspired by the old milk man delivery and pick-up system, has already seen companies like P&G, Unilever, and The Body Shop sign onto the pilot program which recently launched in New York, New Jersey, Washington D.C., Pennsylvania, and Maryland. If you need more incentive, Credooffers store credit when you bring in empty bottles. The next step is to slowly start replacing your products with sustainable alternatives. You may have seen brands like Meow Meow Tweet and By Humankind, which offer products like refillable deodorant and mouthwash tabs. You can also switch to reusable cotton pads, refillable makeup from brands like Kjaer Weiss, and package-free products like shampoo bars—all of which significantly cut down plastic and chemical waste. Oh, and ditch the single-use face mask.

Two Major Household Products Now Available in Reusable Packaging

Detergent brands Cascade and Tide have joined circular shopping system Loop, with customers in the U.S. now able to buy the products in reusable packaging. Recycling specialists TerraCycle run the program, which enables customers to buy everyday products in durable packaging that can be cleaned, collected, refilled and reused.

Cascade and Tide join Loop packaging re-use scheme

The scheme, run by recycling specialists TerraCycle, enables customers to buy everyday products in durable packaging that can be cleaned, collected, refilled, and reused. Cascade and Tide are both owned by Procter & Gamble, which is one of the major consumer goods companies backing Loop alongside Nestle, PepsiCo, Unilever, Mars Petcare, The Body Shop, Coca-Cola European Partners, and Mondelēz International.

Why reusable food packaging has a promising future

In searching for an innovative method to provide consumers with sustainable yet convenient packaging options, companies including Tyme Fast Food and TerraCycle's Loop program, as well as retailers including PCC Community Markets have reimagined packaging as something reusable rather than disposable.

Why Reusable Food Packaging Has a Promising Future

In searching for an innovative method to provide consumers with sustainable yet convenient packaging options, companies including Tyme Fast Food and TerraCycle's Loop program, as well as retailers including PCC Community Markets have reimagined packaging as something reusable rather than disposable.