It’s no surprise that convenient, generalist websites like Amazon are thriving this year as the coronavirus pandemic has forced most Americans into their homes for the long haul. In fact, in March and April, Amazon was even discouraging its customers from purchasing too many items, as the massive influx of orders was causing a shortage of items and shipping delays.
Those issues aside, a growing reliance on online shopping is weighing heavily on the environment. According to Adobe Digital Economy Index’s latest data, U.S. e-commerce jumped by 49 percent in April, with online grocers experiencing a 110 percent boost in daily sales between March and April. Recent data suggests that e-commerce giant Alibaba’s single-day sales hit more than $38 billion in revenue this year, and according to Adept Packaging, those additional e-commerce sales resulted in 75 million extra plastic bags.
Here is where industry newcomer Loop swoops in — the brainchild of entrepreneur Tom Szaky, who created the innovative recycling company TerraCycle as a Princeton drop out with the goal to recycle the food waste from the university dining halls into fertilizer. His company is now worth $20 million, and he’s branching out.
In May of 2019 the program first started a webshop, supplying customers with the products they already know and love, from Haagen Dazs ice cream to Pantene shampoo and conditioner. The twist? Their containers were not just recyclable, but truly reusable — meaning they could be cleaned and then given a new life, if not a hundred.
Now, big name retailers including Kroger are planning to make space in stores for Loop next year, utilizing TerraCycle’s refillable packaging system. Customers will be able to visit Loop stations to purchase a wide array of household products, all sold in stainless steel tins that Loop has specifically designed to eventually be returned, cleaned and sold again in a “milkman” style system. The refundable packaging does come at a small cost to consumers, who are required to pay a deposit that ranges from $1 to $10, depending on the container’s size and material.
Loop’s Global Vice President of Creative and Communications, Lauren Taylor, says that the pandemic has fortunately not forced the company to shift priorities, sharing that, in fact, sales are at a platform-high. “Our priorities will continue to be aimed at eliminating waste and offering consumers their favorite brands and products in higher quality, better designed reusable packaging.”
“Loop just launched in the United Kingdom July 15, and as of Sep. 15, 2020, Loop will be available to consumers in every ZIP code in the 48 contiguous U.S. states,” says Taylor. “Next year we will launch in Toronto, Tokyo and Australia. We are also working with select fast-food restaurants and beauty stores to provide reusable packaging to consumers. Be on the lookout for that in 2021.”
How might that experience look in store? Well, at places such as Tesco in the United Kingdom and Carrefour in France, customers can be on the lookout for Loop corners, or areas of a store designed for products packaged in Loop’s containers. Aeon Co., Japan’s largest supermarket group, also plans to introduce Loop corners to 16 of their stores in the greater Tokyo area by next March.
“We want people to come in and fall in love with these really cute, beautiful packages, understand the message and get excited about it,” Satoshi Morikiyo, general manager of convenience goods at Aeon, told The Wall Street Journal. “Shopping trips are not necessarily something people look forward to, but this is a cool experience that offers something of a discovery—something new and fun.”
Indeed, Taylor tells Changing America that with more than 100,000 people signed up for Loop, they’re excited to be expanding their services to the entirety of the continental United States and that rapidly growing consumer demand has secured Loop more than 80 partners and 400 products — a number that continues to grow weekly.