Loop reusable packaging system expands beyond e-commerce to new stores including Kroger

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Dive brief:

  • Loop, a reusable packaging program from TerraCycle, has announced that it will soon be offering some of its products in select retail stores in the United States and Canada. The program offers products from well-known brands in specialized returnable containers.
  • Loop will roll out the program “in the coming weeks” to select Fred Meyer stores in Oregon, and follow up with pilots at several Burger King and Tim Hortons stores later this year. Walgreens, Ulta Beauty and other retailers are expected to join the program early next year, said CEO Tom Szaky during a presentation last week. Woolworths in Australia will also join.
  • The expansion takes Loop from an e-commerce site to a presence also in traditional retailers with a “buy anywhere, return anywhere” model. Pilots have already started at Tesco and McDonald’s in the UK, Aeon in Japan and Carrefour in France. Worldwide, Loop’s portfolio includes around 500 products from over 150 companies, Szaky noted.

Dive overview:

Loop is one of many companies trying to infuse the consumer goods market with more reusable packaging in an effort to reduce virgin plastic and divert packaging from scrapping. More and more packaged goods companies work on the implementation of reuse pilots, according to the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, a proponent of reusable packaging options. However, the share of reusable packaging did not increase much compared to 2019 and represented less than 2% of the market by weight in its 2020 progress report.

Szaky sees consumers as a critical force in expanding reuse systems by “voting every day” with their money to tell big brands they want reusable alternatives to single-use packaging. However, reuse systems need to be practical in order to attract a greater influx of users, he said, and Loop’s retail business aims to get more buyers to buy reusable versions of it. products they are already buying.

“Customer acceptance will determine how quickly we can scale this across the business. So we’ll take a close look at customer engagement: how products work, how they appear on the shelves, and then ultimately sales will be a really important aspect, ”said Keith Dailey, vice president of business. corporate at Kroger, which will begin offering products in Loop containers later this year at some of its Fred Meyer stores.

TerraCycle first introduced the Loop concept in 2019 at the World Economic Forum, first as a door-to-door delivery service where customers bought products in reusable containers online and returned empty containers in a bag that could be shipped. With the new model in store, Loop products will be grouped together in the same aisle, as well as the bin for returns. Customers pay a refundable deposit on the packaging and collect the deposit via the Loop app when they return the container.

Szaky believes the business part of the Loop model will help the concept move from a simple pilot to a larger, more sustainable part of the global reuse infrastructure. Consumers are already familiar with reuse programs like those for propane tanks and beer kegs, Szaky said, but he thinks those types of programs aren’t very helpful because “you can’t bring the propane tank at the beer store or vice versa. versa. ”Buyers of Loop packaged products may buy ketchup in a reusable Tesco bottle, then return the empty container to a McDonald’s, he said.

Convenience is essential to any durable and efficient reusable container system, said Elizabeth Balkan, Director of Reloop Americas, a non-profit organization working on circular economy and packaging design issues. “It has to be as easy to use as the conventional packaging,” she said. “You’re not just asking early adopters, environmentally conscious consumers to participate. You have to make it easy for everyone to use.

McDonald’s is monitoring its reusable cup pilot to see if customers are returning the containers as often as they had hoped. “Even at the very beginning of this partnership with Loop, we’ve learned that our customers don’t want to compromise between a sustainable choice and a practical choice,” said Jenny McColloch, Director of Sustainability, at the event. announcement.

Return rates for specific stores or pilots weren’t immediately available, but when announcing the launch, Szaky said consumers return around 80% of Loop packaging within 60 days of purchase. and some consumers may keep the containers for reuse at home.

While many reusable container programs get initial hype for creating innovative packaging, Balkan said the real measure of a program’s success is whether consumers actually return the containers. “The functional metric is the number of reusable containers reintroduced into the system. If it’s not a very high number, scalability is in question, ”she said. Loop wants its branded containers to last at least 10 cycles to achieve the full environmental benefit over single-use packaging.

In order to have a more precise idea of ​​the efficiency of reuse systems around the world and to encourage further action in the field of reuse, “the recycling rate and the reuse rate must be measurable and fully transparent. at every stage of the life cycle, ”she mentioned.

Retailers can also leverage their brand recognition to increase reuse options for consumers, Balkan added. “We hope that retailers recognize and embrace the role they have to play in this area,” she said, suggesting that retailers could make a public commitment to offer reusable packaging in stores or at their stores. commit to selling a certain percentage of products in reusable containers.

At the state and local level, Balkan said, legislation that supports reuse initiatives could also help amplify the cause, easing the burden on consumers to lead the charge. Others hope to see reuse built into extended producer responsibility or depository systems.

Some industry players have also shared their concern about whether some reuse programs are accessible enough. When buckle launched for the first time its concept of e-commerce, some users expressed surprise at the amount they had to pay, with deposits for items available through Loop’s retail store ranging from 15 cents for a bottle of Coca-Cola to $ 10 for one. packet of Clorox wipes, Reuters reported.

In a recent report On corporate initiatives to reduce plastic pollution, the Break Free From Plastic coalition said that Loop “receives a lot of positive press and is a pioneer of the concept, but it targets mid to high-end consumers with disposable income. and therefore is not very accessible or including low income people. “


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