In the alternate vision of Loop, a startup that manufactures, cleans and restocks reusable packaging, this packaging is owned by the vendor, like glass milk bottles were in the 1950s.
Loop has partnered up with large chains like Kroger and Walgreens in the U.S., and ten Tesco supermarket stores in the UK. To use the latter as an example, here's how it works: Customers in the store can select from a range of over 100 products—including staples like pasta, rice, oil and sugar, as well as name-brand products like Heinz ketchup, Tetley tea and Coca-Cola soda—and purchase it in Loop-designed packaging right off the shelf.
Customers pay an additional refundable deposit of £0.20 (USD $0.28) for each package. Once they've consumed the product and emptied the packaging at home, they bring it back to the supermarket and deposit them in a Loop collection kiosk. Their deposits are refunded a few days later, via an app. And for those who don't feel like loading containers into the box one-at-a-time, they can also grab a Loop Returns Bag (also for a deposit), fill it with used Loop containers, and drop the bag into the box.
Those dirty containers, meanwhile, go to Loop partner Ecolab, a cleaning and hygiene services company. Once cleaned they're sent to a Loop warehouse and refilling facility. DHL handles the trucking in between.
Despite all of those extra steps in the reusable packaging's journey, Tesco says that "Prices for the contents of each item are comparable to the original." I am well curious as to how the economics of that all plays out.
While I'm not sure if anyone has done the math on carbon emissions, water usage and such, the math on the packaging impact has been worked out. "The impact of switching just three items of the weekly shop," writes Tesco, "could be enormous: if customers in the 10 stores switched their recyclable tomato ketchup, cola and washing up liquid bottles to the reusable Heinz Tomato Ketchup, Coca-Cola and Ecover alternatives, the packaging would be used and reused more than two and a half million times a year."