The old-school method would solve modern problems.

By Tim Nelson
February 02, 2021
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Do you remember the milkman? For non-boomers out there, the answer is almost certainly no. Back in the day before the ubiquity of plastic and disposable containers, people used to get goods like milk in refillable bottles, dropped directly at their door without a trip to the market or any added waste. 

In an era where we're both more aware of how our consumption damages the environment and more accepting of smartphone-summoned strangers depositing food at our doorsteps, it was only a matter of time before the milkman concept would come full circle. Now, an online shopping platform is launching just such a program throughout the greater Toronto area to prove that convenience and affordability don't necessarily have to create waste. 

As Canada's CTV News reports, Loop, an online shopping startup spun off from US recycling company TerraCycle, is launching a service that'll offer consumers the chance to get the brand-name products that they're used to seeing on supermarket shelves dropped off directly at their door in reusable, refillable containers. Once customers finish off what they've ordered online, they can just return the dirty receptacles whenever they want, and Loop will take care of the cleaning and sorting before reuse. 

While you'd think that eco-friendly consumers would be willing to pay a premium to cut down on packaging, Loop's current focus is driving adoption and shifting consumer behavior for the better rather than turning a profit. Loop's goods in reusable packaging will (at least in the case of Kraft-Heinz) cost the same as their single-use counterparts. More broadly, Loop admits that it's willing to operate at a loss for the time being as it continues to drive adoption and shift consumer preferences towards greater sustainability. 

As TerraCycle/Loop founder and CEO Tom Szaky sees it, real change comes from getting a critical mass of consumers to flip a switch and shop differently. 

"Reuse can work at scale. We've just got to make it as easy and convenient as throwing something in the garbage," he told CTV News. "We're focused very much on the masses and creating system change." 

Though the Toronto area effort through major Canadian food retailer Loblaw Companies is Loop's newest endeavor, Americans can experiment with their reusability-oriented approach to shopping through the company's partnerships with Kroger and Walgreens. Here's hoping an idea that could potentially cut down on waste while demanding very little of us in return has a chance to catch on.