Global brands get behind waste-free online shopping platform

An online shopping system designed to reduce waste has been launched today by recycling company TerraCycle, along with a host of international producers and retailers, including Procter & Gamble, PepsiCo, Nestlé, Unilever and more.

Announced today (24 January) at the World Economic Forum – a meeting of global leaders held every year in Davos, Switzerland – the coalition of companies has come together to try and reduce single-use packaging through a new type of circular e-commerce experience.

Loop products will be delivered in a specially-designed bag to cut down on shipping waste like cardboard and polystyrene
The system, called Loop, involves pre-existing products sold in newly-designed, durable and reusable packaging – an idea inspired by the traditional concept of the milkman delivering and collecting glass bottles every week. Customers can visit the Loop website or any of the sites belonging to Loop partner companies, and order their everyday products – such as a bottle of shampoo – at the usual price. They will also need to pay an extra, refundable deposit for the reusable packaging.

Loop products will be delivered in a ‘shipping tote’; once they have been used up, the customer can place the packaging back in the tote, which will be collected by Loop directly from their home, cleaned, refilled and returned to the consumer. If the customer wants to stop their order, their deposit will be refunded.

The plan is not for Loop to compete with other online marketplaces but to act as a system that can be embedded into pre-existing ways of shopping, whether that is in-store or online.

“Consumers want to live a waste-free life, but will not compromise on affordability and convenience,” TerraCycle founder Tom Szaky told Resource, stating that Loop aims to bridge that gap between eco-friendly and convenient. “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.”

The platform, which has been in development for two years, will be launching first in Paris and New York in spring 2019, but is set to expand into further markets later this year, including London and Toronto.

More from the World Economic Forum: Countries need to become circular to avoid climate change, says report

The partner companies involved in Loop so far include 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 and Preserve.

Refillable aluminium shampoo bottles from Pantene, developed for Loop

Laurent Freixe, Nestlé CEO for Zone Americas, described Loop as “a much-needed innovation platform, challenging companies to take a fresh look at our value chains and integrate reusable product packaging as part of our efforts to waste-reduction.”


French supermarket chain Carrefour is the first retailer to get on board with Loop, while Tesco has recently signed up to pilot the system in the UK later this year. Waste management company SUEZ will also be providing operational support.

‘Eliminating the idea of waste’

TerraCycle is best known for setting up a host of recycling schemes for a wide range of hard-to-process items, with sponsorship from some of the companies now involved in Loop – for instance, in the UK, Mars Petcare has introduced recycling for its pet food pouches, which are not accepted in kerbside recycling. Last year, Colgate also launched a scheme to recycle toothbrushes and toothpaste tubes. Other products that TerraCycle has tackled include nappies, cigarette butts and contact lenses.

The company was set up in 2002 by Szaky, then a university student, and now has a presence in 21 countries worldwide, stating that its goal is to ‘eliminate the idea of waste’.

Loop appears to represent a step towards that goal, focusing on waste reduction as well as recycling. Circular economy organisation the Ellen MacArthur Foundation (EMF) praised the concept, saying: “We cannot simply recycle our way to a plastic waste free future. We need to eliminate the plastic we don’t need and innovate so what we do need is circulated safely. New approaches that recognise the vital role of reuse and avoid the need for single-use plastic, like Loop, are a crucial step in the shift to a circular economy, where plastic never becomes waste or pollution.”

Commenting on the launch of Loop in Davos, Szaky explained: “As a response to the global challenge in managing waste and the opportunity to improve consumers’ experience, a group of committed global brands, retailers, infrastructure companies, along with the World Economic Forum have come together to create a new way to more responsibly consume products.

“Loop will not just eliminate the idea of packaging waste, but greatly improve the product experience and the convenience in how we shop.”

With huge international players backing the project, the only question now is whether consumers will get on board.

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