Earlier this year, we introduced you to Loop, an amazing new zero-waste initiative by Terracycle. Loop helps major brands provide products to consumers more sustainably, by delivering items in refillable containers and reusable packaging.
To follow-up, we recently spoke with Tom Szaky, CEO of Loop. In this exclusive interview with The Electric Blog! Tom answers questions about the creation of Loop, the challenge with packaging waste, the process reusing containers, and their plans for the future.
The Electric Blog asks Tom Szaky all about Loop.
What was the inspiration behind Loop?
The idea of Loop is to think about how models before “disposability” worked, like the milkman model and how to modernize it. You could simply say Loop is a reboot of The Milkman. The idea is to shift from the consumer owning the single-use packaging at the end, to the manufacturer owning the packaging and reusing from consumer to consumer.
What made you choose the name “Loop”?
We felt Loop really just symbolized what it’s about. You know you’re looping your products. It really plays into the theme of circular economy. It just felt really appropriate. Terracycle, Loop’s parent company, operates in 21 countries. We wanted to come up with a word that could resonate in foreign markets, since Loop is expanding very quickly around the world.
Could you tell us a bit about the parent company, Terracycle?
Sure. Terracycle, which has been around for about 16 years, has a mission to eliminate waste. The way we do that is, in our first division, we collect items that are not recyclable, from dirty diapers, to coffee capsules, to cigarette butts to toothpaste tubes. Our second division is focused on integrating waste back into consumer products, like ocean plastic back into shampoo bottles, for example. Our third division is Loop. All of these divisions come together to really think about how we bring solutions to the challenge of overall waste.
How big of a challenge is packaging waste?
Packaging waste is quite a large issue. Most of the garbage we produce is product and package waste. If you look at the daily garbage in our garbage bins, 25% of that waste ends up in our oceans. It creates huge environmental problems, not to mention the environmental costs of producing it in the first place. This is why not only recycling is important, but also alternative models that enforce reuse and allowing materials to continuously cycle around as long as absolutely possible.
On your journey in creating Loop, what has been the largest obstacle?
At Loop, we really have to focus on partnership and multi-stakeholder collaboration. Loop is an engine. It’s an engine for major consumer product companies to create durable, reusable versions of their products. It’s also an engine for retailers, Loblaw in Canada, or Walgreens and Kroger in the US, to be able to introduce the idea into their digital and physical stores. Basically, we need to really be good at developing partnerships. So that all these producers and retailers come together to enable a truly reusable economy.
How do you get brands involved with Loop? How do brands respond to the Loop initiative?
The best way to learn more if you’re a brand, or a retailer, is to go to LoopStore.com (US presence) or BuyDurable.com (global landing page). From there, you connect with our team, and then we work with you on how to bring this to life for your particular brand or retailer. The general idea for a brand is to help you enable the creation of a durable reusable version of a package or product. If you’re a retailer the idea is to do that on private label and embed it into your physical store.
How are the containers cleaned between customers?
Each package has its own custom cleaning process. We have a team of scientists and an R&D division who develops different cleaning processes for each type of package. When the packaging comes in, we sort it in different packaging forms, store it until we get the right amount of packaging for a cleaning run, and clean that load of packaging. Then we deliver that to the brand for refill.
What is the ‘happiness guarantee’?
It’s very important, especially in a new model like this, that consumers are comfortable trying out something new. Basically we guarantee your happiness. If there is any problem whatsoever, consumers get a refund. This is something that we feel people will be absolutely be thrilled when they try it out. It’s why we are very comfortable offering such a guarantee.
Where is Loop available now?
It’s available in the North-Eastern United States at LoopStore.com. It’s available in Paris and the Paris suburban areas, there you can go to MaBoutiqueLoop.fr. It’s going to be launching in the UK with Tesco, and Canada with Loblaws, as well as Germany, Japan, and Australia next year. Canada will likely go live in the first half of 2020. If you want to get in line just go to BuyDurable.com. You’ll be able to register and we’ll let you know as soon as it’s available.
Have you heard about Canada’s plan to ban single-use plastics by 2021?
Yes, absolutely. Any time a country passes legislation, like Canada’s ban on dangerous single-use plastics, it’s a wonderful thing. The question on this specific Canadian legislation will be: What is defined as a dangerous single-use plastic? To be very clear, it is not a ban to ban all single-use plastics. The way the legislation reads focuses on “dangerous” single-use plastics and those are yet to be defined. Whether it’s well-defined or soft, it’s really good to have this type of legislation be considered. And it really moves the industry to think about alternatives.
How are you attracting new customers to try Loop?
This is the thing. We’re not inventing new products, or inventing new retailers. We’re working with some really famous brands like Tide, or Tropicana. You know there’s already a customer base for that, there are already people who love and use those products. That’s also why we’re working with major retailers to be able to embed Loop into their ecosystem. That way, we don’t have to worry about teaching people about new products or new ways to shop. All we are really asking is if consumers like their Crest mouthwash or Cascade dish soap in disposable or durable packaging.
What do you feel is the biggest challenge for the project going forward?
I think that the biggest piece will be: Are consumers interested in moving away from disposable packaging and how can we encourage that? That’s probably the biggest question of all.
We think the way to do that is to make it as affordable as possible, as convenient as possible, and to do it with retailers and brands that consumers already trust.
Loop delivers the goods
Loop is the smart and sustainable solution for environmentally-conscious consumers to continue using their favourite big box products without the guilt of excessive packaging waste. Stay tuned for more updates as Loop gets rolled out for the Canadian market.
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