Let’s hope this new brand becomes a big one! Loop is a new global service designed to enable household collection of empty or used product packaging for refilling, reuse, or recycling. Unilever, Nestle, P&G and others are taking part.
Over the last couple of years household waste, especially single use plastic, has been Blue Planet-catapulted into the headlines. And that’s part of a dismal bigger picture: a report from the Circular Economy group of businesses revealed the ‘circularity gap’ – just nine per cent of all raw materials extracted globally each year are currently re-used or recycled. Consumers, business and government all need to find and scale bold solutions – fast.
Let’s hope Loop proves to be a big part of the answer, for everyday branded household goods. It is ‘a circular shopping platform that transforms the packaging of your everyday essentials from single-use disposable to durable, feature-packed designs.’ People will be able to buy and use a range of products in customised, brand-specific packaging that can then be collected, cleaned, refilled, and reused. It has been designed by US-based Terracycle, who have extensive experience in designing recycling solutions in partnership with companies like Unilever, Walkers Crisps and Colgate.
OK, so this is (as Loop says) ‘the milkman reimagined’, but for most people it will require a huge habit change. Many people want to consume more sustainably, but will only make changes if the key boxes get ticked: convenience, price, and quality. How do we think Loop will measure up?
Convenience: This is the big one. The buying side of it will be easy, once fully developed: through the Loop website, through a partner retailer’s website (eg Tesco in the UK), or in store. Once the products are used, Loop arranges the delivery and pick-up of empty/dirty containers; or the customer drops off empty containers in participating stores. Loop explains: ‘Instead of getting a box every month, we’ll automatically replenish the products you send back so that your favorites are available as you need them, in the first subscription model that manages itself.’ Sounds clever. The challenge will be to maximise convenience and minimise van visits.
Price: Terracycle CEO Tom Szaky told lets recycle.com: “on every package you access you have to pay a use fee, which is the same price effectively as the product would normally cost in the store, which is for the contents or your consumption, and then you put a deposit on the package equal to the value of the package.” So – it sounds like they’re aiming for parity pricing vs. buying the normal items in store. Manufacturers are investing in more durable, premium packaging but it will get reused multiple times, offsetting the cost of the service.
Quality: This should be the trump card for Loop. Manufacturers like Unilever are specially designing durable, reusable or fully recyclable packaging made from materials like alloys, glass and engineered plastics. These will be fully branded and will look great in your kitchen or bathroom. Some packaging will need a fundamental redesign, however, to make it reusable – for example, toothpaste. Prepare yourself for the demise of the squeezy tube.
There’s a potential big win here for the brand owners. Through Loop, they’re turning their products into a subscription service, and have the opportunity to learn a huge amount more about their customers along the way. It’ll be interesting to see how Loop manages the data opportunity to the satisfaction of all parties.
Loop will be launched first in North East USA and in Paris. It will come to the UK in September, in partnership with Tesco. If anyone can solve this huge challenge, Terracycle can. Exciting times!