Back to the future for containers that deliver our products

Thursday, January 24, 2019

If you’re of a certain age, one of your first money-making schemes may have been collecting pop bottles to return for the deposit, so they could be washed, refilled and sold back to you for a dime.

A little younger, and you may remember a Seinfeld episode where Newman schemes to profit by collecting 10-cent Michigan refund on 5-cent New York bottles and cans, despite Kramer’s contention he “couldn’t crunch the numbers.”

A company called Loop thinks it CAN crunch the numbers, and is partnering with major players like Nestle, Proctor & Gamble, PepsiCo and many others to do away with disposable containers. Instead, you’ll buy your shampoo or soda in a sleek, reusable container that will be picked up at your door, washed and refilled.

“We’re going back to the milkman model of the 1950s,” said Tom Szaky, CEO of TerraCycle, the entity behind Loop. “You buy the milk but the milk company owns the bottle, which you leave in the milk box to be picked up when you’re done with it.”

He said Pantene shampoo will come in a lightweight-aluminum pump container, Tide in a stainless steel bottle with durable twist cap, Cascade in ultra-durable packaging, Crest mouthwash in a glass bottle, Haagen-Dazs Ice Cream in a “posh, double-walled, stainless-steel tub” designed to keep ice cream cold longer.

Starting in the Paris area, dirty diapers are placed in durable diaper containers, Loop picks them up, recycles the soiled diapers and delivers a clean, empty one.

Spend any time watching YouTube videos, of sea animals trapped in plastic, or vast islands of trash in the ocean, and you’ll be on board with any effort to reduce plastic consumption.

While a North Platte company purchased a large amount of plastic recyclables from the City of McCook transfer station a few weeks ago, bundles of plastic sometimes wait for years before a market can be found.

“We’re kind of at the mercy of the recyclers,” City Manager Nate Schneider told the Gazette.

If you’re like most of us, you have a large collection of plastic shopping bags somewhere in your home, and we hope you return them to the store for recycling rather than just throwing them in the trash.

Or, you may have switched to reusable shopping bags, but we don’t notice many people using that option while we’re waiting in the checkout line.

Like many “green” initiatives, the new Loop system, reusable drinking straws and shopping bags have their critics, saying the water used to clean and launder them, as well as the energy it takes to haul heavier packaging to market and back negates the positive environmental effects of reusable containers.

Still, it is good to see outside-of-the-box thinking applied to the effort to reduce wasted energy and resources.

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