Loop is a start-up that attempts to blend consumer convenience with zero-waste packaging: the service will deliver goods to your door – laundry detergent, food, soda pop, about 300 items in all – in reusable containers, then pick up the empties, clean and refill them, and send them back to you.
Customers pay a deposit for each container, similar to paying a deposit on a glass bottle at a grocery store, and can earn free shipping. If containers can be reused an average of 10 times, the overall environmental footprint, from manufacture to disposal or recycling, is likely to be less than using a container once and then trashing it.
The start-up capitalizes on the growing public awareness of plastic and other waste clogging our surroundings and demanding more space for dumps. It’s also riding on consumer demands that the companies that make consumer products show social values and environmental stewardship. (A recent survey from Clutch, a Washington research firm, shows that, for a growing number of shoppers, a company’s values are more important in determining brand loyalty than a product’s price.)
Businesses are listening. Loop has signed more than 20 manufacturers as partners, including Gillette, Seventh Generation, Crest, Dove, Tide, and brands owned by Nestle and Unilever, among others. European retailers Tesco and Carriefour have signed on. UPS has designed Loop’s reusable shipping boxes and will cart the packages to and from subscribers’ homes.
Loop will run market tests this spring in New York and Paris.
Loop is making a gesture in the right direction, but its’ appeal – like that of Grubhub – is limited to those who can afford to pay for a service that will fetch their products for them. Still, the venture raises public awareness of the emerging circular economy, in which voluntary recycling isn’t enough to safeguard raw materials for future generations or keep us from drowning in our own trash.