Can Loop make packaging reusability a reality at scale?

Discussion
Source: TerraCycle's Loop
May 24, 2019
Matthew Stern

Some big retailers are working with a startup that’s putting a 21st century twist on a classic method of making packaging reusable — a pick-up service akin to the one used by the mid-20th century milkman.

Walgreens and Kroger have both announced the launch of business relationships with a new “circular” e-commerce platform called Loop, according to a press release. Loop allows customers to purchase products from more than 100 familiar consumer brands in specially-designed reusable packaging. The products are delivered and, after use, the customer places the containers outside to await pickup so that they can be sterilized and reused — as in the way glass milk bottles were once recirculated. The program is being piloted in four East Coast states and Washington, D.C.

While such a model seems like it would cut out brick-and-mortar retail entirely, a CNN Business article clarifies that participating retailers will act as pickup points for products and drop-off points for used packaging. Currently, customers who purchase Loop products must be signed up for the service, but the end goal is to allow regular shoppers to access the same items. Though there’s an assured place for partner stores in the ecosystem, Loop products are refilled and shipped back out to the consumer. This would seem, like other new models of auto-replenishing e-commerce, a way to save customers a trip to the store.

Reduction of single-use plastics has become a goal for many retailers as concern about environmental issues and sustainability grows among consumers.

One of the biggest names in global retail, Walmart, has started taking a serious look at eliminating plastic waste. Among other steps, the chain announced in February that it plans to use 100 percent reusable, recyclable or compostable packaging on its private label products by 2025.

Awareness of the problem and the need for creative solutions to address it have grown along with news stories and accompanying images of floating islands of accumulated plastic waste, such as the Great Pacific garbage patch.

A 2018 fact sheet estimated that 32 percent of the 78 million tons of plastic packaging created per year ends up in the oceans.  

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: What factors will determine if customers make the decision to sign up for a service like Loop? Are there functional limitations to how this type of service might grow or be used?

Please practice The RetailWire Golden Rule when submitting your comments.
Braintrust
"Convenience, good looking reusable packaging, and a plan that includes brick-and-mortar retailers? I love this idea! Where do I sign up?"
"I see the Millennial and Gen Z segments totally buying into this concept. They are far more concerned about the impact plastics are having on the environment."
"I applaud this strategy and hope that with the right economies of scale, that both global CPG brands and grocery stores recognize how powerful of an opportunity this is."

Join the Discussion!

9 Comments on "Can Loop make packaging reusability a reality at scale?"


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Georganne Bender
BrainTrust

Convenience, good looking reusable packaging, and a plan that includes brick-and-mortar retailers? I love this idea! Where do I sign up?

Matthew Stern
Staff

Just wanted to add, for those interested in the mechanics of the package design process, that according to Loop’s website CPGs are able to use their own designs, graphics and other packaging features on the specially-made reusable packaging, so the products don’t lose the brand’s distinct look and feel.

Georganne Bender
BrainTrust

I checked out the packaging on Loop’s website. It’s attractive, not generic at all.

Keith Anderson
BrainTrust

I’m very intrigued by Loop (and TerraCycle broadly) and have been trying to learn more about their operation. Providing more durable containers and packaging and a system for returning containers and having them refilled may not be a silver bullet, but it does seem to have potential.

That said, I have questions:

  • Will a critical mass of shoppers get habituated to returning and reusing these products?
  • Will the program be viable outside of large metros like Paris and New York?
  • Will advances in product form and configuration (e.g. the emerging dehydrated cleaning and personal care lines like those from Blue Land, Truman’s, and P&G’s DS3) prove to have a bigger impact on CPGs’ environmental footprint by incorporating factors like weight and cube in addition to packaging?

Ultimately, I applaud any serious effort to take more responsibility for the lifecycle impacts of the products our industry makes and sells.

Ralph Jacobson
BrainTrust

If the service is convenient for the shopper to handle the logistics and value-for-benefit priced, this may have legs.

David Naumann
BrainTrust
David Naumann
Vice President, Retail Marketing, enVista
2 months 29 days ago

Reusable packaging is a great idea. For several years, I have been using HP’s subscription service for printer ink cartridges. HP monitors my printer useage and sends a new ink cartridge when I am getting low on a specific ink color and when I replace the cartridge, I send the empty one back in an envelope. It is very convenient.

This auto replenishment with reusable packaging could work for a lot of CPG products that are used on a regular, predicted schedule. For things that can’t be monitored by the manufacturer, consumers could place their replenishment order online or via their mobile app.

Consumers are getting more environmentally conscious and reusable packaging is a smart approach that should become the norm for consumable products.

David Weinand
BrainTrust

I see the Millennial and Gen Z segments totally buying into this concept. They are far more concerned about the impact plastics are having on the environment (I get berated by my daughters if I use a plastic straw). The pickup/delivery model I think will make pricing too high for many but once consumers can achieve the same goal with pickup/drop-off at a store – this could be a winner.

Brandon Rael
BrainTrust

Reuse, reduce and recycle are the social consciousness mottos for the Gen Z and Millennial groups. My kids are only 6 and 8, but are so influential on our buying decisions, especially when it comes to food and home products. Unlike previous generations, both the school systems and our overall increased understanding of the environmental impacts of packaging could lead to some significant business cases for companies such as Loop. The Loop service could absolutely resonate in the more cosmopolitan cities, as there is a heightened sensitivity to the need to protect our environment.

Green movements are real and should translate over to the CPG world, especially as we are still dealing with a world where shopping for packaged goods leaves you with plenty of cardboard and plastic to recycle. I applaud this strategy and hope that with the right economies of scale, that both global CPG brands and grocery stores recognize how powerful of an opportunity this is.

Chris Angell
Guest

This is a great idea, and it can really bank on the feelings of nostalgia and community that come with reusable, regular pick-up and delivery. Plus, sustainability is a huge selling point for consumers and this checks a lot of boxes in terms of convenience for shoppers.

wpDiscuz
Braintrust
"Convenience, good looking reusable packaging, and a plan that includes brick-and-mortar retailers? I love this idea! Where do I sign up?"
"I see the Millennial and Gen Z segments totally buying into this concept. They are far more concerned about the impact plastics are having on the environment."
"I applaud this strategy and hope that with the right economies of scale, that both global CPG brands and grocery stores recognize how powerful of an opportunity this is."

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