As a boy, I remember milk being delivered to our house by the milkman. Delivery was once a week for us and early in the morning. We would leave our 1/2 or gallon empty (glass) milk bottles on the porch at night before delivery the next day and, typically, fresh milk would be on the porch when we got up.
,I also remember drinking returnable Cokes from 6 1/2 oz. glass bottles. These were purchased at the grocery store and we were charged a 2-cent deposit per bottle. The deposit was refunded when we returned the bottles so, for efficiency, we typically bought Coke in a wooden, 24 bottle case. This process also meant that if I saw an empty Coke bottle walking home from school, I’d pick it up for the 2 cents. As Mary Hopkins would say, Those were the days.
Recently two people (very close to me) alerted me to announcements and stories about a new project known as “Loop”. A very well written CNN article provides a current description of the Loop project including the companies that are partnering.
“Loop”, now set for spring 2019 trials in New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Paris, is a delivery service of consumer products such as household goods, like detergent or shampoo or mouthwash. The trials include approximately 300 products and involve some very large companies including Procter & Gamble, Coca-Cola, and Clorox. The products will be delivered via UPS in reusable containers; containers are returned when empty and are designed to be very durable – up to 100 refills. The customer pays a refundable deposit for each container and receives their deposit back if they decide they no longer want to use that product. The various products are delivered and returned in a Loop Tote Bag.
There are other initiatives underway like Loop. A new company, by Humankind, has announced plans for distributing three products (shampoo, mouthwash, deodorant) that use plastic reusable cases which can be refilled. The initial order provides the reusable container while subsequent refills are “inserted” into the plastic container. The refill comes wrapped in paper, and is inserted by the customer into the plastic container. The environment is spared all those single-use plastic bottles currently associated with shampoo, mouthwash, and deodorant. These products are available now so I decided to try the deodorant and shampoo. My order arrived a few days later and in addition to the products, there was a note:
28,000 POUNDS of single-use plastic waste are disposed into our oceans EVERYDAY. Starting TODAY you will be saving our planet from single-use plastic waste just by getting ready in the morning.
And I am happy to report that these by Humankind products work well and their ingredients are totally natural and friendly to the environment.
Another substitute product I found to eliminate plastic is “Shea Moisture”. Available at CVS (and likely elsewhere) it is a cleanser, moisturizer, and shave cream, all in one. Totally natural, and without any plastic packaging; it replaces my existing shaving cream aerosol can and works great.
In one sense, these new environmentally friendly services work much like other product delivery services including Amazon or the grocery stores. But the environmental impact is significant. By replacing today’s plastic product packages with a sturdy, reusable package, lots and lots of single-use packaging, mostly plastic, is eliminated. To me, these concepts have the potential to save waste and in a sense, model the early milk and Coke bottles. Now my preference for reusable packaging would be more akin to getting beer in my growler. That is, rather than dealing with UPS, I’d like the option to take my container(s) to where the product(s) were dispensed when I needed a refill. Detergent, shampoo, shaving cream, whatever. It would be like purchasing coffee, rice, trail mix, or spices, at the grocery store from the bulk section instead of prepackaged items. The key difference in these new plans would be the specialized containers for specific products.
Some people might see keeping up with all these containers as an inconvenience compared to just putting a new pre-packaged, disposable container in their cart. And that’s understandable; we’ve gotten used to that convenience. But the planet is paying the price with all of the packaging waste that is generated and ultimately, we will all pay the price for that.