Plastic, the plague of society, is on every corner, we cannot escape it. From packaged fruits and vegetables to household cleaning products and from beauty products to wrapped boxes, plastic is everywhere. But with more conscious companies everyday pledging to “go plastic-free” and welcome a more sustainable approach to business, society is making a change for the better. Read about other sustainable companies here.
Now it’s about to go mainstream…
Plastic-free platform: Loop
Is there anything more mainstream than bringing loads of big brands under the same roof? Loop is the brand new zero-waste platform that will send you big-name brand products without the excess packaging. When you’re done with your ice cream, mouthwash or shampoo, simply send back the empty container for it to be sterilised in order to be re-used and sent back out to another customer. Big companies already involved in the scheme include beloved Häagen Dazs ice cream, Crest, Gilette and Tide detergents, and it has impressive backing. The platform is formed of a coalition of big consumer companies like TerraCycle who are partners behind the project.
CEO and co-founder, Tom says: “while recycling is critically important, it is not going to solve waste at the root cause…To us, the root cause of waste is not plastic, per se, it’s using things once, and that’s really what Loop tries to change as much as possible.”
That is where Loop emerged. TerraCycle has bought on companies like Procter & Gamble, Nestle, PepsiCo and Unilever, in order to develop the new platform.
So how does it work? The new pilot scheme will run trials in New York City and Paris, where products will be available through Loop’s e-commerce site. When customers place an order, they pay a deposit for the container (which can be used up to 100 times!) and the order will arrive in a reusable tote bag designed to withstand repeated journeys – no cardboard boxes or plastic wrap in sight. Empty containers are returned to Loop in this tote via a delivery driver or UPS store when the deposit is returned or put towards a next order.
TerraCycle admits that the shipping will have a carbon footprint, but they estimate the total impact to be 50-75% better for the environment than conventional alternatives. With eight of the ten companies listed by Greenpeace as the world’s largest plastic-waste contributors taking part in the new scheme, it may not be long before Loop goes mainstream.
“We are objectively in a garbage crisis, and brands are really looking to bring solutions to end the crisis,” Szaky says.
Supermarkets are embracing plastic-free aisles
Another way big companies are fighting against waste is happening in our local stores. Current calculations by Greenpeace state that British supermarkets produce 810,000 tonnes of throwaway packaging each year, however, some forward-thinking companies are taking a stand. Waitrose unveiled its first ever London-based plastic-free supermarket earlier last month with a dedicated refillable zone where you’ll find products such as cereals, pasta and coffee as well as looking into creating a frozen ‘pick and mix’ section and borrow-a-box scheme. The 11-week trial in Oxford Circus-based branch named “Waitrose Unpacked” aims to test consumer habits and see how we might be prepared to shop in the future.
Futerra’srecent survey of over 1,000 consumers in the US and UK showed that 88% of those involved wanting businesses to help them shop more consciously.
“This test has huge potential to shape how people might shop with us in the future so it will be fascinating to see which concepts our customers have an appetite for. We know we’re not perfect and have more to do, but we believe this is an innovative way to achieve something different,” says Head of CSR for Waitrose & Partners, Tor Harris.
The company are also promising to remove black plastic from all of its own-brand products by the end of 2019, having already removed hard-to-recycle black plastic on its fresh meat, fish, poultry, fruit and vegetables and recently introducing the world’s first home compostable ready meal packaging.
Waitrose isn’t the only major retailer making changes, Morrisons has also created a plastic-free fruit and vegetable zone. the “buy bagless” shelves offer 127 different items either loose or in recyclable paper bags. Read more on the rise of sustainable packaging here. The range includes start essentials like carrots, potatoes and onions as well as more exotic and seasonal produce including cauliflower, chestnut mushrooms and cabbage. Morrisons stress that prices will be comparable with bagged items dependent on size and are seeking to install the bagless zones in 60 stores in 2019 to lead to a nationwide refurbishment of all branches.
“Many of our customers would like the option of buying their fruit and veg loose,” says Drew Kirk, fruit and veg director at Morrisons. “So, we’re creating an area of our greengrocery with no plastic where they can pick as much or as little as they like. We’re going back to using traditional greengrocery and we hope customers appreciate the choice.”
They are already reaping the benefits as trials conducted in Skipton, Guiseley and St Ives, showed an increase of 40% in the amount of loose fruit and veg bought. The supermarket estimates that if this combines, the company would save an estimated three tonnes of plastic a week, equating to 156 tonnes a year.
Leading supermarket chain, Tesco are also on a mission to reduce the plastic in their aisles by removing a selection of plastic-wrapped fruit and vegetables as well as from 45 other foods to offer loose alternatives. Such items on offer include apples, onions, peppers, bananas and avocados. This development follows the announcement that Teso will ban hard-to-recycle plastic packaging by 2019 while ensuring all their packaging is fully recyclable for 2025.
There is no doubt that we are in a war with plastic, but with high profile companies taking a stand on the frontline, there is hope that the nation, and world, can change for the better.
We, as consumers, can make small steps by support such initiates, buying plastic-free and saying no to unnecessary packaging. Let’s take up the challenge this July to make changes that extend past the end of the month.