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Tina Casey headshot

Loop Is Ready for Zero Waste: Are You?

By Tina Casey
Major consumer brands are banking that this new program can circle the "Loop."

Major consumer brands are banking that this new program can circle the "Loop."

The newswires have been buzzing about Loop, a startup that will introduce zero waste, reusable packaging into households in the U.S. and France, beginning this spring. The business model has the makings of success. The big question is whether or not individual consumers are ready to get with the program.

Zero waste? We can’t even manage tote bags!

The problem of consumer engagement with zero waste is especially acute in the U.S., which has long been hooked on single-use packaging. The plastic bag problem is a good example. Walk into any supermarket in the U.S., and it’s clear that Loop has its work cut out for it.

Almost nobody brings their own reusable shopping bags to pack their groceries. The checkout counters may be festooned with reusable bags for sale at a modest cost, yet almost nobody takes the opportunity to buy one.

Aside from customers who frequent Whole Foods and similar stores, many U.S. consumers can’t grasp the concept of voluntarily reusing a simple shopping bag, let alone anything else.

Nevertheless, the zero waste moment has arrived

All right, that’s enough of the bad news. The good news is that Loop may just have the right service at the right time.

China set the stage for Loop last year, by clamping down on its role as a global recycling center, leaving U.S. municipalities with tons of cans, bottles and plastic containers on their hands.

China’s action exposed an inconvenient truth about recycling. Recycling is an important part of a sustainable future, but it is only part of the solution.

Major global brands are already beginning to go to the next level. They are promoting reduced and reusable package, and that’s where one factor in Loop’s potential success comes in.

Loop already has two dozen major household brands in its partnership roster, including Tide, Crest, Dove, and of course, Gillette, along with several lesser known brands including Seventh Generation.

Another key is to success the adoption of online shopping by the general public. Consumers are primed for the convenience of home delivery.

The fact that delivery trucks are ubiquitous is also important, because it enables Loop to piggyback on UPS trucks to pick up empties as well as drop off deliveries.

The thin line between recycling to zero waste

A generation or two ago, children did not learn about recycling in school and many communities did not have recycling policies. Now recycling is mainstream, and that could be another key to Loop’s potential success.

In a video introducing itself, Loop demonstrates how zero waste fits conveniently — and attractively — into households that already recycle.

Look closely and you’ll spot a hybrid electric UPS truck in the background, too. As a partner in the zero waste endeavor, UPS designed the company’s compartmentalized, reusable delivery boxes.

Recycling is also where experience comes in. Loop is the brainchild of TerraCycle founder and CEO Tom Szaky. In an interview last year with Greener Package, Szaky explained that “TerraCycle’s business is all about figuring out how to eliminate the concept of waste.”

TerraCycle got its start recycling things that were not being recycled, from ball point pens to dirty diapers. That model has been a “phenomenal” success for the company. The next logical step was upcycling, including an ocean plastic category with Procter & Gamble that has already scaled into 30 countries.

Szaky sums up the main message:

“Knowing that people care about this sort of thing really motivates the team to keep doing the really challenging work.”

That may seem overly optimistic, considering the aforementioned issue of plastic bags.

Then again, cities in the USA are beginning to pass plastic bag ordinances, and the entire state of New Jersey is considering legislation that would ban single-use bags.

Zero waste really could be ready for its closeup.

Image credit: Lhttps://loopstore.com/oop

Tina Casey headshot

Tina writes frequently for TriplePundit and other websites, with a focus on military, government and corporate sustainability, clean tech research and emerging energy technologies. She is a former Deputy Director of Public Affairs of the New York City Department of Environmental Protection, and author of books and articles on recycling and other conservation themes.

Read more stories by Tina Casey