Can aesthetics cure our throw-away society?
Like many environmentalists, Tom Szaky, CEO of TerraCycle, believes reuse must play a large role in solving eco-challenges, but he doesn’t think sustainability guilt will be enough to change behaviors. Aesthetics, however, might.
At a session at the NRF Big Show, Mr. Szaky provided some early learnings on Loop, a service the waste recycling company developed that allows shoppers to purchase orange juice, laundry detergent and other CPG items in reusable containers. Users put down a refundable deposit via the Loop website when ordering. Loop delivers the items in reusable glass or metal bottles to shoppers’ doors and then retrieves the empties for cleaning and reuse.
Participating retailers, including Carrefour, Kroger and Walgreens, act as pickup and drop-off points.
Mr. Szaky assumed consumers would embrace Loop due to sustainability concerns. He admits, however, that it’s hard to overcome the “unparalleled convenience and affordability” that came when the “disposable lifestyle” was commercialized in the 1950s.
“Even with all that awareness, even the enlightened folks are constantly voting over and over again for a disposable world with their money,” he said.
Encouragingly, many consumers are embracing Loop because of the aesthetic appeal from upgraded packaging that includes stainless steel. “Most people come into it because of beautiful design, then love that it is sustainable,” said Mr. Szaky.
In some cases, upgraded packaging adds features. A Häagen-Dazs stainless-steel reusable in the Loop program is thermally insulated to not only keep the ice cream frozen longer but to keep the surface warm to the touch. The concave vessel also makes the ice cream easier to scoop. Said Mr. Szaky, “It’s just a way better overall experience.”
Some containers may even help improve flavors. Coca Cola, which is bringing back its original iconic package, said Coke tastes best in a glass, followed by aluminum and finally PET plastic.
Convenience may also play a role in converting shoppers. With hand or dish soap, many households already pour store-bought bottles into different containers.
Mr. Szaky stresses that the ease of returning reusables has to match the ease of disposables. “Our overall mission here is to give consumers a disposable experience where they throw out the packaging, don’t clean it, don’t sort it — a completely disposable experience. But act reusable behind the scenes,” he said.
- Kroger and Loop Announce Exclusive Grocery Retail Partnership – Loop
- Can Loop make packaging reusability a reality at scale? – RetailWire
DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: Do you agree that sustainability concerns won’t likely be enough to encourage consumers to shift to more reusable options? Do aesthetics, improved flavor, convenience or other feature upgrades seem most likely to change behaviors?