Some of the world’s biggest consumer product brands — Pepsi, Nestlé, Unilever, and Proctor & Gamble — announced yesterday at the World Economic Forum that they have teamed with N.J. based company, TerraCycle, to deliver sustainability the old fashioned way, in re-usable containers The company will bring back the “milkman model,” where the company owns the package and delivers it to consumers at the same time it picks up empty containers, and then those containers will be washed, refilled and restocked for delivery to another customer.

  • The new “old fashioned” service will start out in two markets: in a suburb outside of Paris; and the New York region, which includes parts of Pennsylvania and New Jersey.
  • At the outset, 300 products will be available in durable, reusable containers, many of which were created just for Loop.

How will it work in the e-commerce age?  It will be nearly the same — consumers will order online from the Loop website or that of a partner and the products will be delivered to their home, just like they are now. However, there is a fee — customers will pay a small “deposit” for the reusable packaging (such as aluminum containers made to last up to 100 or more uses).  When the container is empty, customers place it in a specially designed Loop tote for pickup or, in some cases, can bring it to a retailer. The consumer can choose whether to get the product replenished; if not, the deposit is returned or credited to their account.

Why This MattersIf we can reduce single-use plastics and re-use containers for hundreds of items we use every day, that will be enormous progress.  It will mean less plastic in the ocean and in landfills. And it will mean less trash overall — of all sorts — and fewer hassles for consumers with recycling.  This model will need to scale and will be hard to replicate in the developing world.  But any reduction trash and in the use of single-use plastic is great news.

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