Last week’s announcement of Loop—a circular economy shopping platform with durable reusable and luxury packaging at its core—gained massive media attention from around the globe, including numerous packaging and sustainability publications, as well as Forbes, Bloomberg, CNN, The Wall Street Journal, The Guardian, BBC News, Reuters, Le HuffPost, Fortune and many more. So now that packaging professionals have heard about this ground-breaking initiative, what do they think about Loop?
Since the news broke, Packaging Digest has been monitoring reactions across social media. The majority of posts have been positive. For example…
Adam Peek says, “Imagine a world in 50 years people look back and say ‘that garbage thing was an odd idea. I’m glad we are over it.’ I LOVE the idea of moving from packaging from something someone owns to something someone borrows and returns. This could honestly revolutionize our industry.”
Cole Bowden posts, “This is an exciting shift toward reusability. I hope that Loop outgrows home delivery, and partners with local groceries and big box stores.”
Gunther Brinkman shares, “Our grandparents could manage to leave the bottles outside for the milkman, and our children re-use growlers at their favorite micro-brewery. If the economic incentives are there, this is an idea whose time has come.”
Brian Eddy sees value in the numbers: “…Measuring the impact from the plastic waste and packaging not going to landfills will be nice metric.”
Robert Lilienfeld says, “Back to the future. And, premium brands are the way to do this, as they have both the margins and interested customer base to be successful.”
Jon Rodberg wonders, “Not sure about the overall practicability of using containers over and over…then tossing…vs. just sending original package straight to recycling facility.”
Sara Dunn says, “…it would be very interesting to know how many consumers continue on with Loop after the testing process because they genuinely prefer the system. Such a paradigm shift! I am watching this closely to see how well it’s adopted in the launch markets.”
John Reed posts, “I like this…but will they lower their pricing from the savings gained by not having to manufacture disposable containers?”
Steven Gregory comments, “We’re coming full circle, thankfully.” And “This ‘new’ approach will save marine life.”
David Ward says, “Really looking forward to seeing this grow :)”
Packaging Digest also wanted to hear from key packaging and sustainability professionals, so we reached out to a few. Their comments analyze Loop’s pros and cons:
Jason Foster, founder/chief reuser, Replenish: “It’s long overdue that reusable packaging is becoming the answer to solving waste, driving greater customer loyalty and creating a better branded experience for consumers. The next step in the evolution of how we design products is to recognize that the main ingredient in almost any consumer product is water. So to make the economics of ecommerce or any take-back packaging model sustainable, we need to design for liquid concentrates and allow the consumer to add the water at home. This simple act cuts the bulk and weight of many products by 90% and will make the biggest impact to fulfilling the promise of a circular economy.”
PlasticsToday contributing writer Clare Goldsberry asks, “Will consumers buy into the ‘milkman model’ to reduce plastic packaging waste?” Then she answers, “I have my doubts, given the fact that much research has gone into determining whether people will pay more for products packaged in more expensive biodegradable plastic. The answer is mostly no, but sometimes maybe.”
And, while Loop is not being promoted as a total solution to disposable plastic packaging, Goldsberry opines, “TerraCycle’s Loop platform is not a mass-market idea. It will most likely work in New York City and Paris, as well as in other cities such as London, where it will be introduced later this year, and Toronto and Tokyo, where it will roll out next year. However, most of the plastic waste—80% by some estimates—in waterways and oceans originates in developing nations that have little to no infrastructure to handle trash of any kind, whether it’s metal, glass, textiles or plastic.”
Brian Wagner, co-founder and principal, PTIS LLC: “This week, PTIS and Leading Futurists are kicking off the latest in 20 years of Future of Packaging programs, with several leading companies, including some involved in Loop. So the timing for this announcement is awesome. Whatever the outcome, Loop will look different in 2030 than it does today and will inspire new ways of thinking!
“Somebody unknown said, ‘necessity (need) is the mother of invention.’ Amazing how direct-to-consumer delivery has started a chain of innovations…add to that a need to reduce food waste, a future where growth and demand will outstrip supply, and for many reasons environmental sustainability creates increasing pressure on all of us to make changes. I also like to believe that responsible/conscious capitalism is the way forward for all successful organizations.
“This new supply chain model appears to incorporate some new (data and analytics) and old elements (milk delivery and returnable/refillable beer bottles). Loop is starting with great companies, with really smart people and deep pockets—that alone should help drive potential success. Maybe it will be right for millennials and Gen Z consumers, and anticipated future urbanization.
“Just some things to think about from some of our team:
• We didn’t read much about the role of the consumer, their responsibility and what will change their behaviors. Is a deposit system enough across hundreds of SKUs [stock-keeping units]?
• Consumer insight—What they say is not what they do.
• Highly experiential packaging—Great for highly experiential brands, but overkill for basic products and brands. Human decision-making about brands is not purely logical and rational.
• Damage—What will be the impact of dents and scrapes on refill and reuse, and cost?
• Infrastructure challenges—Including…UPS is not great at hyper-local delivery…will they hand off to USPS? Uber and Lyft drivers? Bicycles? Really need lots of system thinking and design and material considerations.
• Food safety, cleaning, contamination, sanitation at consumer level prior to returning—and lack of convenience.
• Big equipment, line, shipping, distribution implications.
• Environmental impact—more vehicles, added weight, reverse logistics, GHG [greenhouse gas] emissions, energy to clean containers, and more.
• Nestlé obviously did the research, but what if I don’t want stainless steel ice cream packaging that’s heavy, cold to the touch, slippery and drops/breaks on the floor?
• Might play a niche role but not for everyone, everywhere…ecommerce is making all the headlines but still is only 5% of U.S. retail sales.
• Over the next 20 years, population shifts will focus attention on new markets, with possibly lower spending power and bigger environmental issues. This could be the model they evolve to, or it could be too cost prohibitive to be realistic.
• If really a niche, what will the market value be of the substrates for recycling? Reducing high recycled paperboard and corrugated, and replacing with reusable totes, and potentially undesirable materials in the waste stream may not be the best answer. What are end of use providers (such as Materials Recovery Facilities or MRFs) saying about Loop?
• Love the new reuse business model. If we want to move toward a true circular economy, we need start exploring new models. Kudos to the companies that are doing this and going out on a limb.
• Deposit system—Great! Incentivizes consumers to return the package. That’s why Michigan has a 98% return rate on carbonated beverage packaging, and everywhere else in the U.S. is 30%.
• Highly experiential packaging—Simple graphics and high end materials. Millennials will be posting this all over social media. (Us Boomers and Gen Xers already have.)
• Only works in dense population centers—Otherwise people will be paying too much for shipping. That could be a whole new reuse model with consumers going to a vending machine (with solar power) to refill small bottles instead of pouch. Reuse model, but for a whole different audience.
• Cleaning will be interesting—But we drink from glasses in restaurants all the time and all I see them do is dunk them into a bath and immediately start pouring a beer. Not a lot of cleaning taking place, but enough to make the consumer feel fine, I guess.
• Overall, it’s exciting—A new collaborative effort coming together to make a difference! We should all celebrate that instead of just waiting for something to happen or worse yet, legislation!
• Low trust in the “washing and sanitizing” of the package and probably would only use for certain package types/materials. Glass would be one that I would trust more.
• Need to focus on measures preventing plastics from littering the land and sea.
• Consumers love convenience which drives a lot of excessive packaging—consumers need to change behaviors.
• Like Frito-Lay reusable DSD [Direct-Store Delivery] corrugated totes, I assume there is an algorithm that makes sense regarding initial investment, and five uses versus payback over some number of years.
• Opportunities to understand and develop closed loops and be smarter about the right products in the right packages for the right brands—for economics and consumers, and the entire value chain.
“It will be great to follow the progress, especially with our year-long Future of Packaging program starting this week, looking out to 2030. We will be following the discussion!”
Two representatives from the Sustainable Packaging Coalition (SPC)share their quick takes:
Kelly Cramer, senior manager at GreenBlue and the SPC—where she leads one of its fastest growing projects, the How2Recycle Label program—says, “It’s a welcome relief that brands are starting to experiment with reusable packaging—the time is beyond ripe. I hope that exploration of new systems like this that reframe the packaging/product relationship continue and succeed.”
And Tristanne Davis, SPC project manager, comments, “I do believe the time is ripe for reusable with all the global and industry commitments emphasizing this option. We just need the business models to be appealing and convenient to make it work.”
What do you think of Loop? Comment below, please!
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