TerraCycle’s “Loop” Program Aims to Conveniently Eliminate Packaging Waste

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TerraCycle, a global recycling organization from New Jersey, recently released plans for a new delivery service that’s goal is to completely eliminate packaging waste. With any product, there are two parties responsible for waste. The first is the company manufacturing and packaging the product. It is up to them to give their product appropriate packaging that eliminates unnecessary packaging waste and/or use materials that help achieve that goal. The second responsible party is the consumer. This tends to be where pain points come into play. A company can take all of the proper steps towards creating a green product with sustainable packaging and minimal waste, but at the end of the day, that product is going into the consumers hands who then take over the responsibility of what happens to that packaging.

There are 254 million tons of trash produced by Americans every year. Unfortunately, only about 34% of that gets recycled properly. When I read that, it led me to my next search asking, “Why don’t people recycle?” I found a few reputable sources that mentioned reasons such as cost, forgetfulness, not understanding what to recycle, not understanding the benefits, or believing that it will not make a difference, but the overwhelming consensus for why people don’t recycle is simple: convenience. TerraCycle has made it their mission to crush that statistic and remove that reason from the list, which in turn should greatly increase that 34%.

So what is “Loop” all about? TerraCycle describes it as a circular shopping platform that replaces any single-use disposable packaging with durable, reusable packaging. Consumers subscribe to the program, pay a refundable deposit, and order products that are delivered in a specially-designed shipping tote instead of a box. Available products are determined by the brands and companies that participate in the program. According to the company’s site, once the products are used, customers place the reusable packaging back into the tote and schedule a free pick-up. The program will then pick up the product(s) and the consumer’s deposit is refunded. The empty packaging is then hygienically cleaned and sanitized and ready to reuse. “Loop will not just eliminate the idea of packaging waste, but greatly improve the product experience and shopping convenience,” said TerraCycle CEO Tom Szaky.

Some brands projected to be a part of this program, according to Environmental Leader, are P&G brands Pantene, Tide, Cascade, Crest, Oral B, Gillette, Venus, and Pampers, as well as Unilever’s Dove, Degree, Hellmann’s, Seventh Generation, and many more. Other major partners include Nestlé, PepsiCo, and Mondelēz International.

This program is said to be a revolutionary change in the packaging world. While consumers may not be ready for reusable packaging, it’s coming, and TerraCycle is committed to making the program seamless and successful. We still have a few unanswered questions – such as, is there a limit to how many times a certain material is cleaned and reused? Are there metrics being used to pull materials out of circulation for various reasons? Are there repercussions for consumers not scheduling pick-ups and is that monitored? TerraCycle has yet to release the program, so we imagine they are ironing out the details as we speak.

In theory, this really could be a packaging revolution. That’s not to say there will not be any skepticism associated with the program. However, Szaky has noted in an article by Waste Dive that 8 out of 10 companies on a 2018 Greenpeace list of the most commonly found brands in ocean clean-ups are now Loop partners. It will obviously take years, maybe even decades, to see changes in those numbers, and it’s probably too soon to know the full potential, but it is hard to argue that a difference wouldn’t be made when so many companies and brands are getting involved. The program is expected to launch this spring in the Paris metro area and the New York City area, including parts of New Jersey and Pennsylvania. One thing we know for sure is that we’ll be following its success and are interested to see how the program plays out. We’d love to hear from you, so feel free to share your thoughts on the new service in the comments below!

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