Global recycling giant TerraCycle has announced a new plan to lead the phasing out of single-use plastic containers. At the World Economic Forum in Davos, the company revealed this new initiative, which they call “Loop.” Alongside massive global-reaching brand partners like Coca-Cola, Unilever, PepsiCo, and Procter & Gamble, these companies have all agreed to get away from distributing their products in disposable packaging, focusing instead on distributing more food and beauty and personal care products in reusable packaging.
Now this sounds like a something from a beautiful utopia, but this is not a perfect world and reusable packaging does not necessarily cut down on waste. In order to do this the packaging must actually be reused as intended. In the good ol’ days, you would leave your glass milk bottle outside for the milkman to collect or you would exchange it at the dairy or grocery store for a new bottle of milk. For these companies to involve reusable packaging, we have to update this distribution model.
Fortunately, TerraCycle is already on top of this: their plan is to activate postal services across the globe to pick up your empty cartons at your home. Think of it as similar to the way we have successfully adopted home-based curbside recycling. The reclamation service will simply pick up your empty containers and distribute them back to their respective companies, where it is cleaned, sanitized, refilled, and sent back out.
TerraCycle founder and CEO Tom Szaky explains, “The garbage problem just keeps getting worse and worse,” hinting that it is not necessarily the consumer’s responsibility to reduce garbage disposal when companies keep making things that are easy to throw away. He also points at China’s efforts to stop accepting foreign recyclables, something that has increased trash in countries who were using China as an international dumping ground.
Szaky goes on to say, “Recycling is like Tylenol: You take it when you have a headache, but there are better ways to never get the headache to begin with.” Essentially, in this real utopia, we would all simply buy less stuff andthe stuff we would buy would not result in more garbage.
Loop is not the first program of its kind but it is the first to find so many massive global manufacturing partners. Whether that is a testament to the service model’s quality or innovation or whether it is simply that corporations are shifting their mentalities is another thing entirely. Either way, we can expect to see a lot less garbage in our future.