With the coronavirus pandemic forcing me to order more things than ever online — from groceries to toiletries to fancy dried beans — I’m accruing quite a lot of single-use packaging at my house. And I feel bad about it.
Maybe I’ll soon be able to assuage some of that guilt when Loop, the reusable packaging service, expands nationwide over the next few months (tip via Fast Company). Loop, an initiative from recycling company Terracycle, sells name-brand CPG products directly to consumers that are packaged in reusable containers made from metal and glass. After the consumers use them up, they put the empty containers back in the tote they came in and Loop picks them up to be sterilized and refilled.
Loop launched in the U.S. last May with a pilot program in the Mid-Atlantic region of the U.S. According to an Instagram post from the company, Loop will roll out its reusable-container service across the contiguous U.S. sometime this summer. Globally, Loop is available in Paris and has plans to head to Canada, Germany, Japan, and the U.K. this year.
At launch Loop already had a roster of big-name partners like Kroger, Pepsi, Nestlé, and Walgreens. The platform has expanded to include roughly 200 products, including plant-based burgers and ice cream from Häagen-Dazs (my personal favorite).
I know what you’re thinking — during a pandemic when we’re all anxious about contamination, are we really going to be okay with receiving groceries packed in containers that someone else has already used? Especially since bring-your-own mugs and reusable totes in retailers are becoming a thing of the past?
Loop’s CEO certainly thinks so. He told Fast Company that Loop has seen evidence that “consumers are comfortable with reuse during COVID.” Since Loop has a reuse protocol in place — with stringent cleaning measures and pre-established health and safety checklists — he’s confident that they’ll be able to continue their closed-loop packaging practice without putting users at risk.
If users are comfortable with this, Loop’s extended platform could be a real help to cut down on our persistent packaging problem. Even if your delivery boxes are technically recyclable, COVID-19 is causing challenges for the waste management industry as a whole. Many packaging elements — like styrofoam and ice packs — aren’t recyclable anyway. Considering that the EPA reported that over 32 million tons of packaging and containers went into landfills in 2017 — almost a quarter of the total waste from the entire year — this is an issue we need to take seriously.
Today is Earth Day, so there’s no better time to take a moment and consider how we can help preserve our planet. Come this summer I know one small step that I’ll be taking cut down on the amount of packaging I’m tossing out. Bonus: I still get to enjoy my chocolate-fudge ice cream.