Posts with term UPS X

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!  

No-Waste Shopping Service 'Loop' Comes To Rhode Island

Bristol resident Parker Kotuby is one of the first Rhode Islanders to use the service.

A zero-waste shopping service is now available to Rhode Island residents. A zero-waste shopping service is now available to Rhode Island residents. (Loop) BRISTOL, RI — Next time you go shopping, pay attention to the amount of plastic packaging in your bags. Produce wrappers, bags of powdered sugar, bottles of soda, even the bags themselves — all plastic. Loop, a fledgling company that recently began serving Rhode Island residents, is on a mission to change that.   "There was never another option available to me before Loop," said Parker Kotuby, a 29-year-old Bristol resident and flagship Rhode Island Loop user. "So much junk is thrown away."   Loop takes a new approach to shopping, delivering totes full of household goods, food and other supplies to user's doors, all in reusable packing. Well-known brands from Cascade to Clorox to Häagen-Dazs are packaged in durable materials like stainless steel that users return once the product has been used up.   Here's how it works: users pick out their desired products and are charged for the products themselves as well as a refundable deposit to encourage returning the packaging. Once users send the empty containers back, the deposit is returned to them.   "[The price] can seem crazy on the face of it," Kotuby said. "It's definitely not bargain pricing ... but I'm willing to pay a slightly higher price to feel like I'm making a difference."   Several days later, a large, study black tote emblazoned with the Loop logo arrives via UPS. Virtually everything in that tote from the containers themselves to the little plastic lock that keeps the zippers closed in transit can be placed back inside the bag for reuse or recycling. Even the Clorox wipes, usually a one-and-done item, are sent with a canvas bag for collection to be sent back to Loop headquarters.   "So far, the only things I've been able to find that are disposable are the thin plastic sealants that keep the lids on the stainless-steel cans of snacks during transit," Kotuby said. "It's pretty impressive."   So far, Kotuby said he hasn't seen a major decrease in the amount of trash he and his wife produce in a week, which he said is likely due to the unavailability of certain items and that he is still a new user of the service. Over time, he believes services like Loop will help keep plastic out of landfills and oceans.   The biggest drawback, he said, is most likely the price. Initial costs can be high, though over time he believes it will be most cost-effective. For those who are unsure if Loop would work for them, he encourages taking the leap.   "It's very low-risk to try. If you don't like it, you can get your deposit back and just not place any more orders," Kotuby said. "It's worth it to give it a shot. It's easier than going to the grocery store!"  

The green column: TerraCyle’s Loop to shift single-use packaging paradigm

Loop models: e-commerce and in-store TerraCyle has launched a circular, durable packaging model for CPGs and their consumers interested in reducing single-use packaging waste streams.  Packaging and product manufacturers are well aware of the environmental impact of their companies, the negative press about single-use plastics in our oceans, consumer demand for more sustainable solutions, recycling rates with room for improvement and jam-packed landfills. TerraCycle, the globally known leader in recycling hard-to-recycle waste, such as laminated snack pouches, toothbrushes and polyurethane earplugs, is blazing yet another trail, this time wholly changing the way we think about products and consumption to support our value stream in reducing its reliance on single-use packaging. This year TerraCycle has launched Loop, a circular packaging reuse solution that changes the existing model for fast moving consumer goods. Loop has created an infrastructure where the primary product containers are durable, designed for multiple uses. The containers are collected, cleaned, refilled and reused via e-commerce and retail, making reuse convenient and affordable to customers through virtual and physical shopping channels. Today a package is considered a COGS (cost of goods sold), and its cost is fully allocated per fill. The cheaper the package the lower the cost per fill. In the Loop model, the package is property of the CPG company rather than the consumer. In this way, the manufacturer’s allocation per fill is the cost divided by the number of uses it can bear. The more durable the package, the lower the cost per fill. By changing the concept around ownership, the demand for durability increases. Rick Zultner, vice president of research and development at Loop, says: ‘When the packaging is an asset to the brand, and made as durable as possible, the manufacturer can depreciate the cost over time. In the current model, single-use packaging is effectively hurting the bottom line, and there is more incentive to reduce the cost per unit as much as possible.’ The incentive to reduce the cost per unit is part of what makes hard-to-recycle laminated pouches so appealing, coupled with convenience and ease-of-use. Therefore, the underlying benefit to the Loop model is the economic structure with the ultimate incentive of eliminating single-use waste entirely. We have a long way to go before we start seeing a major shift, but there’s no doubt that global consumers are eager for a viable, sustainable consumption option such as Loop. Zultner continues: ‘There is a healthy amount of market development being done, and we know that this model makes sense to better align the total life-cycle cost of a product with the finance objectives of the company manufacturing the products.’ The circular Loop  Loop offers its reuse packaging system using two models. For e-commerce convenience, brands can integrate their product onto the Loop website. Loop executes all receiving, outbound distribution, inbound distribution and cleaning. The second option is to purchase products at Loop retail partners’ brick and mortar locations. Once the consumer is finished with the product, they can return it to the retail store. The consumer will receive their deposit back, and the empties will be transported through the grocery store distribution network back to Loop for cleaning and refilling. For initial launch, only the e-commerce option is available. In the US, UPS is Loop’s logistics partner, handling delivery and reverse logistics. Together the partners custom-designed the foldable Loop tote to handle liquids, dry goods and personal care products with protective dividers inside, using materials that offer easy cleaning. The UPS Package Design and Test Lab identified ways to mitigate material breakdown, product leaks and exterior packaging materials that display dilapidation quickly. The tote eliminates the need for the ubiquitous corrugated boxes we have become so familiar with as e-commerce users. The tote comes with a shipping label to place on the top of the tote when the containers are empty and ready to be returned. Users trigger return pick up and shipment through their account on the website. Throwback ‘milkman’ designs  Loop assists product manufacturers with the selection of their primary container materials including aluminum, stainless steel, glass and engineered plastic. Zultner explains: ‘We want to make sure the containers can be cleaned and effectively reused.’ Material selection is based on the product type and where in the household the product is used. For example, Love Beauty and Planet’s shampoo bottles are aluminum because of the hazard associated with breaking. However, REN Clean Skincare’s bottles are glass. Designs from the 1950s have made a comeback with this paradigm shift, harking back to a time where there was no concept around single-use and disposal. For example, Mondelez’s Milka brand is going back to a design more like a cookie tin from the post-war era. Manufacturers are starting small and incubating their most prominent brands using the Loop circular opportunity. Most of the Loop participants have R&D lines to do the filling in-house, or the ability to contract with a specialty filler. The objective is to design a primary container that can withstand 100 uses at a minimum. Explains Zultner: ‘In a life-cycle analysis, depending on the type of package – if it can achieve five uses, it’s considered better than single-use packaging, and any uses beyond that deliver both environmental and cost savings.’ Branding durable containers  Much of the growth in the label industry through the 1970s and 1980s can be attributed to the increasing demand for foods, beverages and beauty products in convenient, single-use packaging. According to Forbes, humans buy a million plastic bottles every minute; and it’s estimated that over half a trillion plastic bottles will be sold in 2020. Loop has officially launched in the greater Paris area, and New York state, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania – all locations within a one-day shipping zone. Should these regional consumers shift their buying power even a small percentage to Loop’s reusable containers, the label industry will feel the contraction. The Loop teams are actively researching the best decoration technologies to suit the purpose of reuse on these durable containers. Zultner says: ‘We’ll need labels that remain appealing through multiple washing stages, but can be peeled off and removed without damaging the packaging and without leaving residue behind.’ Loop is looking to build a materials guide for its CPG partners, informing users on adhesive and material selection to meet their branding objectives. For instance, the adhesive and overall durability of a label on the front of the container might require more permanence than the back label, to accommodate more frequent ingredient changes during a reuse phase. Alternatively, the front of the container could incorporate direct print while only the ingredient label is pressure-sensitive and can be effectively removed frequently for updates. ‘It’s still important for brands to differentiate their products through the Loop platform,’ Zultner says. ‘And we’ll be using our resources to help uncover the best ways of branding and labeling the primary containers used in the Loop infrastructure.’ Brand participation  The Clorox Company’s Hidden Valley Ranch dressing, Unilever’s Hellman’s mayonnaise and Nestlé’s Haagen-Dazs ice cream are among the participating food brands. Terracycle has targeted the largest food conglomerates to get involved. Says Zultner: ‘It adds momentum to the initiative and can help change the entire market direction.’ With the right brand participation, Loop can more rapidly gain authority and relevance in the marketplace.   Moreover, Unilever’s power brands Dove, Axe, Love Beauty and Planet, REN Clean Skincare, and Seventh Generation are available through Loop. Procter & Gamble’s influential brands Pantene, Tide, Cascade and Crest can be purchased with reusable packaging via Loop. The opportunity TerraCycle’s Loop offers is exciting and telling in many ways about the pivotal way packaging sustainability will evolve over the next 10-15 years, or sooner. So many consumers are already heavily entrenched in today’s e-commerce infrastructure. It’s only a matter of time before leading brands participating in Loop gain user traction, achieve growth and find renewed cost models that make their businesses more profitable. In turn CPG shareholders will be more confident, and CPG customers happier about the economic and environmental decisions they’re able to make when purchasing their favorite products. Wise label converters will pay attention to the moves their customers are making in the packaging reuse space, so they can continue servicing their needs in a 21st century milkman’s world.  

Unilever’s plan to stop massive plastic pollution from destroying the oceans

Unilever plastic packaging used in products like shampoo and conditioner bottles contributes to ocean pollution.
  • The consumer giant has cut down on plastic use by 15% and is using bioplastics and refillable metal bottles for items like deodorant.
  • The global plastic packaging market is on pace to reach $300 billion, but many of Unilever’s newest top-selling brands are the ones aligned with its Sustainable Living Plan.
GP: consumer holding Unilever plastic products On any given day, 2.5 billion people use Unilever products that span 400 brands. That success has created a huge target on the company’s back as the sustainability movement gains more traction with consumers shunning plastic pollution. Sajjad Hussain | AFP | Getty Images From the farthest reaches of the Arctic to the deepest depths of the ocean, plastic pollution really is everywhere. Plastic pollution in the ocean is a particularly big problem: an estimated 100 million ocean animals are killed each year because of plastic in the ocean, and we currently have no reliable way to extract those plastics. But plastic is also a huge part of our everyday lives, in often invisible ways. Now, one of the world’s biggest plastic polluters is racing to reinvent its business–and the way we think about this ubiquitous material–one package at a time. The sea change is top priority for Unilever to ensure customers remain loyal to the 90-year-old global brand. On any given day, 2.5 billion people use Unilever products that span 400 brands to feel good, look good and get more out of life. But the multinational with a market cap of over $158 billion recognizes that its growth has come at the expense of the environment. The company invests over $1 billion annually on research and development, of which new plastics innovation is a component, but declined to tell CNBC how much its plastics initiatives specifically are costing. It is benefiting the company: In 2018, the 26 Unilever brands that are aligned with its sustainability initiatives grew 46% faster than the rest of the business and also outperformed in turnover growth, according to the company. In November 2010 under the guidance of now-former CEO Paul Polman, the company launched its industry-leading sustainable living plan, which has guided the company’s approach to product design and redesign ever since. Oversight of this global initiative starts at the top: reporting directly to the company’s CEO and executive leadership, a steering team meets five times per year and is accountable to the executive for the sustainable living plan’s goals. They rely on a series of internal groups devoted to everything from sustainable packaging to water use. Unilever also runs its own Safety and Environmental Assurance Centre (SEAC) that takes a science-focused look at the environmental impacts of products throughout their life cycle, including when they go down the drain.

Transforming plastic

Since 2017, one of the plan’s main focuses has been plastic. That’s when Unilever signed on to an Ellen MacArthur Foundation initiative called The New Plastics Economy, committed to making all of its plastic packaging either reusable, recyclable, or compostable by 2025. Doing so will ensure that plastic packaging stays within a “circular economy” where it can be produced and reused, rather than becoming waste. That means not only developing the technology to make plastics that can be effectively recycled, but also transforming its global supply chain. Both are major challenges. “I’m convinced that we are going to move more as a society into some of those spaces around reduce and reuse, and [Unilever] will be at the forefront of doing that,” says Richard Slater, chief research and development officer for Unilever. Slater, who took over the role in April 2019, says Unilever’s commitment to sustainability was a big reason he was drawn to the company. Inside the company, this attitude toward plastic shows up in a framework used throughout the business, referred to as “less/better/no.” It’s visible in their finished products: shampoo bottles that contain around 15% less plasticthanks to the introduction of bubbles into the material; replacing traditional plastics with bioplastics made of materials like cornstarch; and goods that use no plastic in their packaging, like refillable deodorants that come in a metal tube. Addressing the issue of packaging is a great way to start changing the way plastic is used, says Shelie Miller, a University of Michigan professor who studies packaging and sustainability. “Packaging is produced to become waste,” she says. “That makes it unique among manufactured goods.” It’s hard to know exactly how much of the plastic problem is due to plastic packaging, says Melanie Bergmann, a marine biologist and plastic pollution expert at Germany’s Alfred Wegener Institute. However, packaging on consumer products is a significant problem, she says, and unlike many other sources of plastic, “something we can tackle relatively easily.”

Rethinking supply chains

Transforming its plastics packaging market has required ongoing change in the company’s supply chain, both in working with existing suppliers to change their practices and with new partners like Terracycle’s consumer goods distribution system Loop, which will be testing consumer uptake on products like refillable aluminum deodorants for some of Unilever’s top brands. The Loop Initiativehas buy-in from some of the world’s biggest brands, including Unilever competitors Procter & Gamble, Nestlé, Coca-Cola and PepsiCo. Terracycle’s partners involved with the initiative include logistics company UPS, European retailer Carrefour and resource management company Suez. On the materials side, too, the drive to develop better plastics has seen Unilever partner with startups like Ioniqa, which bills itself as a “high tech chemical company”, and broader industry initiatives like the Bioplastic Feedstock Alliance, a World Wildlife Federation-led initiatives to develop biodegradable plastics that don’t compete with food security. The company is also “engaged with several bio-plastic suppliers,” according to a company spokesperson. Unilever also is pushing forward on in-house initiatives such as developing a new pigment for black plastic such as that used for the company’s TRESemmé line of shampoos and conditioners. Traditional black plastic is not detectable by the infrared sorters that recyclers use and must therefore be thrown out. Unilever’s solution is a new kind of pigment that can be detected by the sorters, allowing its black plastic bottles to be recycled at traditional recycling facilities. Within industry, “Unilever is really seen as a leader in sustainability,” says Miller. “They have a track record of being a leader in efforts to reduce overall environmental impacts, so it’s not surprising that they are ahead of the curve here.” From the investment perspective, this is one of the most lucrative markets to get into. However, creating a circular plastic economy for its many products isn’t a simple undertaking. “One of the challenges we face in many places around the world is availability of material, ” says Louis Lindenberg, Unilever’s Global Packaging Sustainability Director. “We’ve had to work with our supply chain partners to identify what material is required where, how much is available, what the gap is, and how we fill that gap.” One example is in Brazil, whereUnilever recently partnered with local recycler Wise to expand local recycling capacity in order to get the recycled materials it needs to meet its commitments, Lindenberg said. There’s no guarantee that the things they try will get consumer uptake. The company’s found high consumer acceptance for initiatives like moving towards things like 100 percent recycled or recyclable plastics, Slater says. But on the no-plastic side, with things like the Loop initiative and other refill and reuse systems, “we really are more in pilot mode there.” Initiatives like these are also what will keep Unilever competitive into the future, says Slater. In its 2018 annual report, the multinational named plastic packaging as a “principal risk” to its business. “Both consumer and customer responses to the environmental impact of plastic waste and emerging regulation by governments to tax or ban the use of certain plastics requires us to find solutions,” reads the message to shareholders. By 2025, the year when Unilever and other signatories to the New Plastics Economy agreement have pledged to transform their packaging, Grand View Research predicts that the global plastic packaging market will reach a market size of $269.6 billion USD, up from a 2017 valuation of $198 billion. Key drivers of this market are the convenience and low cost of plastic packaging, but according to numbers produced by Transparency Market Research, consumers are willing to pay nearly 10 percent more for sustainable packaging. “Consumers are looking for sustainable packaging, says TMR senior market analyst Ismail Sutaria. “At the same time, the packaging should be easy to use.” At the moment, the food and beverage sectors have the biggest market share for sustainable packaging, he says, with cosmetics and personal care not far behind, meaning that Unilever stands to benefit strongly from investment in this area. Increased focus on sustainable packaging will get the eye of investors on a company, Sutaria says. “From the investment perspective, this is one of the most lucrative markets to get into.” By working to change the plastics market, Unilever is paving the way for its own future.

How can we get plastic waste under control?

Several years ago, Sonya Shah dumped the garbage out of her trash can and dug through the contents. She found plastic food containers, shampoo bottles and other items mixed among food scraps and kitty litter. It was Plastic Free July, the monthlong global campaign to reduce plastic waste, and part of her taking action was to audit the plastic in her trash. While she and her husband were environmentally aware, they were not plastic free.   “We don’t eat meat, we take our cloth bags to the store and we were raised by parents that didn’t have a lot of money, so we don’t have the practice in our minds of buying things we don’t use,” said Shah, 48, of Atlanta. “We thought we were doing a lot, then we realized we weren’t really scratching the surface.”   Shah began looking for ways to reduce the single-use plastic — items like straws, shopping bags and plastic cutlery that are meant to be used once and thrown away or recycled — in her life. She tried castile soap, shredded avocado pits and vinegar in an effort to use shampoo that didn’t come in plastic bottles. She already toted a reusable coffee cup and shopping bags but stopped giving herself a pass if she forgot them. She went almost two years without eating berries or grapes because she couldn’t find any that didn’t come in plastic packaging.   Her efforts helped reduce the amount of trash she and her husband produced each week to the size of a plastic grocery bag.   “The things that have been most difficult to eliminate are probably the things I don’t need to be using,” Shah said.   About 400 million tons of plastic is produced worldwide each year, and about half of it is single-use. In Georgia, residents throw away about 1 million tons of plastic each year.   Chemicals used in plastic can be absorbed by human bodies. Plastic in landfills can leach chemicals into groundwater. Plastic debris lands in the ocean, injuring or killing marine life; and burning plastic waste can release toxic pollutants.   The plastic problem keeps growing — only about 9% of the plastic waste generated in the U.S. gets recycled — and experts said the fix will require everyone to do their part, from the engineers who have turned waste into biodegradable plastic to consumers making a conscious choice to reduce the amount of plastic they buy and use.   In metro Atlanta, Fulton County has considered banning single-use plastics at county buildings while a number of local restaurants, including popular seafood eatery Six Feet Under, have stopped providing plastic straws to customers.   “Plastic is a valuable material, but when we started designing things out of it with intended obsolescence, this was a big mistake,” said Dianna Cohen, CEO of the Plastic Pollution Coalition. Cohen, who has a background in visual art, once used plastic bags as material for her artwork. She would later decide that while recycling and reuse had its place, prevention was key.   “I put things in the recycling bin and I say a little prayer, but the truth is, for our own health, it is best to buy things unpackaged,” she said. She replaced her Tupperware with glass containers. She tossed rubber cooking utensils and bought stainless steel and wood. She carries an insulated cup and a food-grade stainless steel bottle everywhere she goes, along with a set of bamboo utensils and a stainless steel spork. When she orders carry-out, she goes to restaurants that will put her food in a Mason jar she provides.   Why problem is growing The life cycle of plastic, a synthetic material made from organic polymers, begins with the extraction of fossil fuels. From the moment it is extracted through its manufacture, production and final degradation in a landfill, plastic is toxic, Cohen said.   Chemists created polyethylene in the 1930s, which led to a boom in polymer-based products like Tupperware and Saran Wrap. Plastic is one of the world’s most versatile materials, used in everything from medical IV bags to automobile parts. But our dependence on single-use plastics transformed a valuable and durable material into one of the world’s biggest environmental concerns.   Global output of plastic waste rose more in a single decade beginning in the early 2000s than it had in the previous 40 years, according to UN Environment. By 2015, Americans were generating 34.5 million tons of plastic waste per year. Much of the nation’s discarded plastic ends up in foreign countries with poor waste management systems where uncaptured plastic turns into pollution.   This year, 34 states are considering over 200 pieces of legislation to address plastic pollution, according to the National Caucus of Environmental Legislators, including bans or fees on a range of single-use plastics. Georgia is not one of those states.   The state also has not published a Solid Waste Management Report since 2011. The result is limited data that could help inform solutions, said Will Sagar, executive director of the Southeast Recycling Development Council.   Impact on Georgia By 2025, there will be an estimated 155 million metric tons of plastic in the ocean, according to research from University of Georgia professor Jenna Jambeck. The Great Pacific Garbage Patch, the mass of plastic in the Pacific Ocean between Hawaii and California that is twice the size of Texas, is the largest and most well-documented example, but there are smaller-scale problems right in Georgia.   Marine researchers from UGA found microplastic in water samples taken from Georgia’s coast during a survey in 2017 while visible plastic debris — shopping bags, plastic bottles — can be spotted in local waterways that feed the South River and the Chattahoochee.   The amount of trash washing into Jackson Lake from the South River is so bad the South River Watershed Alliance (SRWA) joined community organizations to invest in a $368,000 Bandalong Litter Trap system that floats in waterways and captures litter before it flows farther downstream.   DeKalb County committed to maintaining the litter trap and ultimately contributed funds to help residents make the purchase. In late June, the county was reviewing bids for the system, said Jackie Echols, board president of SRWA. “No one wants to claim trash, but you have to take ownership of your trash. I think that message is finally getting around to folks,” Echols said.   Bringing about change For six years, Hannah Testa, 16, of Cumming has lobbied against single-use plastics. Last month, she spoke in support of the proposed ban on single-use plastics in Fulton County government buildings. “There aren’t a lot of buildings, but it is a great step forward,” said Testa.   Testa had hoped Georgia legislators would consider plastic bag bans or fees as early as 2016, but when she raised the issue in meetings, they advised her to focus on increasing awareness about plastic pollution before taking on any bans. Testa, who created Plastic Pollution Awareness Day with Sen. Michael Williams, said she sees good things happening in Georgia.   This summer, she plans to meet with a county commissioner in Forsyth to ask the county to consider a single-use plastic ban like the one under consideration in Fulton. And she is always encouraged by the businesses in her community, like Mellow Mushroom, which recently switched from plastic straws to paper in response to community requests.   “You don’t always see the impact you make when it comes to plastic pollution,” Testa said, noting that more consumers need to trust their power to bring change.   More than 1 trillion plastic bags are discarded worldwide each year, and their ubiquity has made them a target for plastic reform. Kroger (and other stores) send plastic bags and packaging returned by shoppers to a recycler that uses them to make composite lumber products, said Felix Turner, spokesman for Kroger. Last year, the company said it would stop providing single-use bags at registers by 2025.   Kroger also announced an exclusive grocery retail partnership with Loop, a milkman-style service that allows customers to purchase brand-name items such as Pantene shampoo and Haagen-Dazs in long-lasting (at least 100 uses) reusable packaging that is shipped back for a refill of the product or a return of the deposit. Atlanta-based UPS partnered with Loop to create packaging design for the Loop tote as well as the pickup and delivery services for Loop customers.   Other major Atlanta-based companies have also pledged to reduce plastic consumption. Delta Air Lines will begin phasing out plastic straws and stirrers in flight later this month. They have already removed the plastic wrapping on amenity kits. Coca-Cola launched an initiative to make packaging 100% recyclable worldwide by 2025 and use at least 50% recycled material in packaging by 2030. The company will also collect and recycle a bottle or can for each one sold by 2030.   Nationwide, companies are creating alternatives to plastic materials or finding new ways to use plastic waste. Loliware is a startup that creates seaweed-based biodegradable straws while Ecovative uses mycelium, the root structure of mushrooms, to create an alternative material that can replace plastic in products such as footwear and retail packaging.   Shah believes we are in the midst of a cultural shift, one in which everyone — government, corporations and individuals — thinks more consciously about what we consume and discard. She said she draws inspiration for her zero-waste lifestyle from a connection to the past.   “For me, it is a strategy of the ancestors. It is how you survived the Great Depression, the wars, slavery and colonization. Unless you come from nobility, that is the way of all people,” Shah said. “I know everyone is capable of doing something.”

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.