TerraCycle, a global leader in recycling hard-to-recycle materials and integrating waste back into products, was determined to create a platform that can solve waste at the root cause (disposability) and keep the convenience and affordability factors that consumers crave. And after a couple years of brainstorming and hard work, TerraCycle, in partnership with major brands, has developed and launched Loop.
Loop is a first-of-its-kind shopping system that aims to change the world’s reliance on single-use packaging, offer a convenient and enhanced circular solution to consumers and secure meaningful environmental benefits. The system, which will launch in Paris and New York in the spring and additional markets throughout 2019 and 2020, will enable customers to responsibly consume a range of products in customized, brand-specific, durable packaging that is collected, cleaned, refilled and reused. The content, if recoverable, also will be either recycled or reused.
“Loop is very much an engine for retailers to be able to enable a durable supply chain, and it’s an engine for brands to be able to enable durable versions of their products,” says Tom Szaky, TerraCycle CEO and president and a 2019 Waste360 40 Under 40 award recipient. “But beyond brands and retailers, we are working with some large infrastructure partners to make it all work. Suez, for example, purchased 4 percent of Loop and is helping with wastewater management and the cleaning infrastructure. And UPS helped us create a zero waste logical system and played a big part in developing the supply chain. They are really the logistical partner that’s making this all come to life.”
In addition to Suez and UPS, Loop was formed with the help and support of other partners, including Procter & Gamble, Nestlé, PepsiCo, Unilever, Mars Petcare, The Clorox Company, The Body Shop, Coca-Cola European Partners, Mondelēz International, Danone, Jacobs Douwe Egberts, Lesieur, BIC, Beiersdorf, RB, People Against Dirty, Nature’s Path, Thousand Fell, Greenhouse, Grilliance, Burlap & Barrel Single Origin Spices, Reinberger Nut Butter, CoZie, Preserve, Carrefour and Tesco.
“As a response to the global challenge in managing waste and the opportunity to improve consumers’ experience, a group of committed global brands, retailers and infrastructure companies, along with the World Economic Forum, have come together to create a new way to more responsibly consume products,” said Szaky in a statement. “Loop will not just eliminate the idea of packaging waste but greatly improve the product experience and the convenience in how we shop. Through Loop, consumers can now responsibly consume products in specially designed, durable, reusable or fully recyclable packaging made from materials like alloys, glass and engineered plastics. When a consumer returns the packaging, it is refilled, or the content is reused or recycled through groundbreaking technology.”
To create the sustainable packaging, TerraCycle turned to the skilled engineers at UPS, who designed and tested the reusable packaging and totes. Durability and modularity were key in the design and testing process, which took place in UPS’ package lab.
In the lab, the engineers were able to evaluate how the internal components within the packages reacted to impact and vibration and how the reusable tote reacted within a real-life shipping environment.
“We looked for signs of stretching and tearing and how those things would affect the long-term use of the tote. We also tested how well liquids, dry goods and frozen/chilled items were protected by the inner packaging during transport,” says Quint Marini, UPS package engineering manager. “During this testing process, TerraCycle and UPS swapped feedback, photos and observations to ensure that the end product was durable, sustainable and modular.”
With the reusable tote and recyclable inner packaging, TerraCycle and its Loop partners are setting an example of how brands and retailers can reduce their reliance on cardboard and single-use packaging materials.
“Companies like UPS play a critical role in the circular economy movement, and we look at transportation as being an enabler for circularity,” says Patrick Browne, UPS director of global sustainability. “We’re constantly looking for opportunities to work with our customers to streamline not only the return process but also the packaging. We see Loop as a signal of the future and a concept that could someday help replace cardboard altogether.”
Loop is in its very early stages, but in the short term, TerraCycle is working to ensure it’s partnering with more brands and retailers and that consumers are resonating with the platform and using it repeatedly. Once Loop gets to that point, TerraCycle hopes to scale up the system globally.
“For TerraCycle going forward, we are going to focus on three things: recycling hard-to-recycle items, integrating waste intro products and figuring out how to eliminate the root cause of waste via the Loop system,” says Szaky. “We’re also continuing to look for more ways to bring an elevated value to waste. I look forward to finding new ways to push the envelope on what waste is looked at and what our relationship with it is overall.”