Achieving a long-term solution for a circular economy is crucial for the entire industry, and many consumers take sustainability into consideration when making purchasing decisions. In order to use this consumer behaviour for the benefit of the industry, one way forward could be to involve the consumer directly in the re-using process.
To make this more accessible for consumers, digital reusing schemes are becoming more popular amongst companies. One of the most recent schemes to be announced is Loop, which directly links brands, retailers, and consumers to make the reusing process more efficient through the use of technology.
We spoke with Tom Szaky, CEO of Terracycle, about the company’s new scheme and how this may impact sustainability efforts for the future.
How far away are we in terms of finding completely sustainable solutions to waste?
Waste is now a world-wide global crisis that has been growing for over half a century. Consumers, big corporations and governments are becoming increasingly aware of the challenges due to waste and disposability. This is a huge first step.
Every day, more disposable material gets put into the ocean and landfills, so no matter how much we clean the ocean or recycle we’re never going to solve the problem. To us, the root cause of waste is not plastic, it’s using things once, and that’s really what Loop tries to change as much as possible.
Is convenience the answer to creating a circular economy?
Disposability is convenient so if a circular solution is not, it might not work in the long run. Circular systems need to offer consumers an experience that is as good – if not better – than linear models.
With digital reusing schemes, consumers have access to a convenient shopping experience that enables them to receive their favourite products at home in durable and premium packaging.
How does Loop impact the packaging industry for food and beverages?
Nowadays, when a consumer buys the product, they also buy the packaging, when what they need is just the product. With Loop, consumers will no longer own the packaging. Instead, it becomes an asset for the brand, which is an incentive for manufacturers to invest and design very durable containers that can be washed and reused many times.
In this perspective, brands can invest in developing packaging with better features. For example, in the US, the Häagen-Dazs container exclusively designed for Loop can keep the ice cream frozen longer.
How long will it take for reusing schemes to become mainstream?
We’ve had a very positive response from the public. I think the world is ready for schemes like this, because consumers and manufacturers have come to realise that recycling is critically important to help a symptom, but it is not going to solve waste at the root cause.
Will Loop become an in-store solution, and how does this change the face of shopping for food and beverages?
We are working with retailers in each of our launch markets. Carrefour in France, Tesco in the UK and a yet-to-be-named retailer in the US.
Loop’s retail partners are integrating the Loop engine into their e-commerce and later physical retail environments, effectively creating true “packaging free” aisles or sections.
In these models, the retailer purchases the Loop products from the manufacturers and sells them to the consumers. Partners also support recollecting the used packaging through a variety of methods (from direct pick up from consumers to store drop off).
Is digitalisation key to creating better solutions for reusable schemes like Loop?
Digitalisation is key for implementing circular solutions because it enables the platform to be convenient for consumers and easy to access from anywhere – unlike products that are only available in local stores.
Will Loop work alongside local recycling organisations, or is this a standalone service?
Loop is a standalone service. Disposable items available on Loop will be recycled by TerraCycle, not through kerbside municipal systems.
At the moment, is Loop restricted to the European market?
For now, Loop will be launched in Paris and NY in Spring 2019. Loop is planning to scale by adding more consumers to each active geography as well as expanding to new geographies in late 2019-2020, including London, Toronto, California, and Tokyo.
Tom Szaky was speaking with FoodBev Media’s Harriet Jachec.
© FoodBev Media Ltd 2020