When the phrase, “Reduce, reuse, recycle,” was coined, the words were placed in a specific order. Priority number one was to reduce the amount of disposable packaging that ends up in the trash. After that, reuse what you can, and then recycle the rest. A company called Loop is trying to help with the middle part of the equation by partnering with food manufacturers and retailers around the world to provide consumers with reusable, returnable containers for common household items.
Working with Loblaw Companies in Canada, a Loop online store launched on February 1, 2021 for customers in Ontario. The site carries a number of familiar brands, including Heinz ketchup and President’s Choice products. The lineup of products ranges from toothpaste and deodorant to salsa and cooking oils, with more being added.
“Loop is designed to be as convenient as the single-use shopping experience while creating a sustainable, circular module for consumption,” says Tom Skazy, founder and CEO of Loop and its parent company, New Jersey-based TerraCycle.
For now, the online only program is delivered by FedEx in an insulated “Loop Tote,” though the company plans to have the products available in Loblaws stores later this year. A $25 fee per order covers delivery and pickup of the empty containers, but shipping is free on orders of $50 or more. The delivery area covers “most of Ontario” but groceries can not be delivered to P.O. boxes.
All the packaging has to be designed to be reused at least 10 times. According to Loop, Nestlé spent $1 million developing a stainless-steel canister for its Häagen-Dazs ice cream that can be reused 100 times. Customers pay a refundable deposit on every container, ranging from fifty cents for glass jars to $5 for the Häagen-Dazs tin.
When your container is empty, put it back in the tote and once it’s full call for a courier to pick them up or drop them off at a FedEx location. Loop sorts, sterilizes, and returns the containers to the participating manufacturers.
On its website the company does make the disclaimer that the returnable containers may come into contact with allergens: “If you or someone in your family has a serious food allergy, Loop may not be for you.”
Freelance writer, Grace Hunter, spoke with Laura Hardman, acting director of the Plastic Free Oceans initiative at Ocean Wise, a not-for-profit organization whose mission is to protect and restore the world’s oceans.“I really hope this program is successful. I would highly advocate for more reuse programs,” says Hardman.
“What I love about programs like this, is that they are fundamentally getting us to rethink how we consume, and getting brands to rethink how they’re providing a service to consumers,” says Hardman.
If you find yourself outside of Loop’s service zone, Hardman has some tips to reduce plastic waste at the grocery store. She says the first thing to do if you see something in plastic packaging at the grocery store is to ask yourself if you really need that product. If you can’t refuse it, next ask yourself if you can reuse the packaging. And finally, if the plastic can’t be refused or reused, ensure that the packaging is recyclable and can be turned into something new.
Hardman also recommends taking the #BePlasticWise pledge, an Ocean Wise initiative which challenges participants to become ocean champions and take on practical, easy actions to reduce their plastic waste. —Grace Hunter