Can Loop make packaging reusability a reality at scale?
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.
- Kroger and Loop Announce Exclusive Grocery Retail Partnership – Kroger/Loop/PRNewswire
- Reusable packages are coming to Walgreens and Kroger – CNN
- Can Walmart lead the fight to eliminate plastic waste? – RetailWire
- Mediterranean Garbage Patch: Huge New ‘Island’ of Plastic Waste Discovered Floating in Sea – Newsweek
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?