Unilever, P&G, TerraCycle, others work to close the Loop

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Photo by Loop In the Loop program, customers would receive products via a reusable tote, packaged in reusable containers.

Single-use plastic packaging is in the crosshairs of a new effort to promote reusable containers across a broad swath of consumer goods.

A company known in the past for recycling cigarette butts, juice pouches and chip bags is now joining with major consumer brands to launch an effort to cut back on single-use packaging.

Called Loop, the new service being established by recycler TerraCycle Inc. and an array of consumer goods companies involves the delivery, use and collection of reusable containers for a wide range of products.

Think of Loop as the 21st century equivalent of the milk man, without the milk.

Loop has signed on a litany of big-name companies willing to help launch the idea — initially in the Northeast US and France this spring.

"Loop will not just eliminate the idea of packaging waste, but greatly improve the product experience and the convenience in how we shop. Through Loop, consumers can now responsibly consume products in specially-designed durable, reusable or fully recyclable packaging made from materials like alloys, glass and engineered plastics," TerraCycle CEO Tom Szaky said in a statement.

Loop will employ what's being described as premium, durable packaging that will be used, returned and refilled.

Unilever plc, as one of the first companies involved in Loop, will test a refillable deodorant stick made from stainless steel.

Estimated to last for about 100 refills, this new deodorant approach would allow a consumer to avoid throwing away eight years' worth of empty packaging, Unilever said.

"We want to put an end to the current 'take-make-dispose' culture and are committed to taking big steps towards designing our products for re-use," Unilever CEO Alan Jope said in a statement.

Procter & Gamble Co., the consumer products giant, goes up against Unilever in several product categories. But both companies are participating in Loop.

P&G will feature specific products in the Pantene, Tide, Cascade, Oral-B and Crest brands in the Loop platform. Some will replace plastic containers with stainless steel, and Crest will offer mouthwash in a reusable glass container.

Those interested in using the new service will be able to order products from Loop's website or from retailers' websites.

Products will arrive in specially designed reusable shipping totes instead of cardboard boxes. Empty containers will be placed back into totes to be collected by Loop from homes.

Loop will clean the containers before they are refilled for reuse.

Loop also is developing systems to recover and recycle other products, such as razors, toothbrushes, diapers and hygienic pads.

TerraCycle, over the years, has developed a reputation for tackling difficult-to-recycle material streams. Early on, the company made a name for itself through its juice pouch recycling, but has created collection efforts targeted at many types of packaging.

TerraCycle typically partners with consumer packaged goods companies to fund its recovery efforts.

Companies and brands involved with Loop, at this point, include Nestle SA, PepsiCo, Mars Inc., Clorox Co., The Body Shop, Coca-Cola European Partners, Mondelez International Inc., Danone, Jacobs Douwe Egberts, Lesieur SAS, Société Bic SA, Beiersdorf AG, Reckitt Benckiser Group plc, People Against Dirty, Nature's Path Foods, Thousand Fell, Greenhouse, Grilliance, Burlap & Barrel Single Origin Spices, Reinberger Nut Butter, CoZie and Preserve.

Retailers Carrefour and Tesco in Europe are also involved as well as United Parcel Service and waste and recycling firm Suez SA.

The formation of Loop was unveiled at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.


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