Solid Loop – Packaging as an Asset
4/3/2023 Article

Solid Loop – Packaging as an Asset

Reduce, reuse and recycle are the main pillars of modern packaging management. The Loop initiative has focused on the second idea and rolled out an ambitious system of reusable packaging around the globe. What are the initial findings of the project partners?

A woman drops a can into a Loop deposit machine. Returning used Loop packaging at deposit machines looks the same in France, the USA and Japan.

Contrary to popular belief, packaging waste is not generally shipped abroad or completely incinerated in thermal recycling plants, says Uwe Melichar at the start of the EPDA (European Brand and Packaging Design Association) presentations at last year's FACHPACK. Recycling and composting are working better every day. But waste can be reduced even further by reusing packaging. The Loop initiative, led by TerraCycle and involving around 200 partners, shows how this can be done.

Clemence Schmid, General Manager Loop Global at TerraCycle, outlines this concept as follows: “Our mission is to reduce the negative impact of single-use packaging. To do this, we don't have to reinvent the wheel – there are already existing systems like returnable bottles.” The basic system remains unchanged: The container is owned by the producer, who is thus motivated to make it as durable as possible, and the consumer pays a deposit, which in turn encourages him to return it. According to Schmid, this contrasts with today's reality of cheap disposable packaging.


Similar concept around the globe

Loop aims to make participation convenient and affordable for both producers and consumers. “Our motto is buy anywhere, return anywhere,” explains Schmid. To this end, Loop offers drop-off points in participating shops. Consumers can return all Loop reusable packaging to one of the drop-off points and do not even have to sort it.

Since 2019, the company has gained practical experience in markets in various countries - from Japan to Europe and the USA. An important pillar of the Loop concept is uniform implementation. The return of used packaging at the vending machines looks the same in France, the USA and Japan, for example. A take-back logistics system established in these markets ensures that the containers are collected, cleaned to the highest standards and returned to the manufacturers. Following the successfully implemented pilot projects in these markets, Loop plans to expand its system to other products and shops in a next step.


Häagen Dazs shows how it's done

James Pryor, EPDA member and co-founder and creative director of London-based Touch Agency, demonstrated what Loop looks like in practice. His agency was commissioned to design a container for Häagen Dazs ice cream that is suitable for the Loop system.

From a designer's point of view, he stressed that even the durable packaging required for Loop must appeal to consumers and include many different stakeholders. Production managers, for example, want to ensure that the packaging can be integrated into existing lines and that it is compatible with current capabilities. Marketing managers, on the other hand, make sure that the product design encourages shoppers to buy both in-store and online. Finally, consumers need to be convinced to pay the deposit for a product because it appeals to them. The logistics of the project also require that the container is robust, ages well, fits in with the other products in the Loop ecosystem, and is easy and reliable to clean throughout its lifecycle.

To ensure this, the designers tested a variety of samples and materials and created prototypes. In the end, the partners decided on the winning concept based on consumer surveys and the evaluation conducted by Loop, Nestlé and Touch: a three-part stainless steel design met all requirements. It consists of an insulated lid, an inner core and a protective jacket that wraps around the outside. This jacket forms an air gap that provides insulation for the ice cream.

Pryor says that while it is a costly package. But it is designed to be a benefit to the brand. For the manufacturer, he said, the container paid for itself after 75 cycles. “After the launch in the US, some independent research was done and consumers reacted very positively,” says James Pryor.

Tommy Seetho, head of packaging research and development at Nestlé – which owns the Häagen Dazs brand - concluded the presentations by saying that he believes the biggest question is whether the system can be scaled globally. "It's important to know that we understand the geographic markets and that the same system may not work in different countries,” Seetho said.
So Loop has made a start, as the three speakers point out to PACKBOX. For its success to continue in the future, it needs a strong network that is also prepared to take initial risks.

You can watch the complete presentation in this video:

EPDA members speak in the PACKBOX