Retail giants prepare to launch TerraCycle's 'zero-waste' refill service in stores

Following successful online launches, retailers including Tesco in the UK and Carrefour in France are planning to bring TerraCycle's refillable model, backed by businesses like Danone and Unilever, to stores.

Pictured: Some of the products offered through Loop in the UK. Image: TerraCycle

Pictured: Some of the products offered through Loop in the UK. Image: TerraCycle

Called Loop, the platform first launched online in Paris in 2019 with Carrefour as its retailer partner. It then expanded in France and was launched in the US, Canada and, latterly, the UK, following Covid-19-related delays.

So far, the refill platform has only operated online. Consumer goods brands provide product refills on the e-commerce website of the retailer partners in their region, while retaining ownership of their reusable packaging. Once the products are sold and used, TerraCycle and its partners in the logistics and packaging industries deal with collection, cleaning, refilling and recycling at the end of packaging’s life.

Now, retail giants Tesco, Kroger and Carrefour have revealed plans to install Loop “corners” – designated areas featuring products packaged in Loop’s reusable containers – within the next 12 months.

Loblaws in Canada and Woolworths Group in Australia are also planning to roll out Loop products in stores in 2022, while the platform’s retail partner in Japan, Aeon, is planning a trial at 16 stores in the greater Tokyo area, commencing in March 2021.

“We want people to come in and fall in love with these really cute, beautiful packages, understand the message and get excited about it,” Aeon’s general manager of convenience goods Satoshi Morikiyo said.

 “Shopping trips are not necessarily something people look forward to, but this is a cool experience that offers something of a discovery—something new and fun.”

The announcement comes shortly after TerraCycle revealed that it is now offering refillable models for more than 400 products globally. Brands with products available through Loop include Colgate Palmolive, Procter & Gamble and Kraft Heinz.

Other UK supermarkets piloting refill offerings include Waitrose & Partners and Marks & SpencerAsda and Sainsbury’s, meanwhile, are due to launch refill trials in the near future.

Plastics vs the pandemic

As Bloomberg put it in a recent feature: Plastics had been falling out of favour – then came the virus.

The wave of plastics action sparked by Blue Planet 2 in 2017 was de-prioritised overnight as public health (rightly) sky-rocketed up the agenda. Some businesses operating refill models were either mandated to close or chose to pause these services as they implemented new health and safety procedures.

In June, a coalition of 119 scientists from 18 countries published a joint statement assuring businesses and individuals that reusable containers, when used in systems where basic hygiene is implemented, do not increase the Covid-19 transmission risk.

Businesses to have taken note since then include Costa Coffee and Starbucks, which have begun offering refills once more after implementing City to Sea’s recommendations on contact-free refills. Elsewhere, Selfridges has confirmed plans to trial refillable beauty products, following in the footsteps of The Body Shop, Lush and John Lewis and Partners.

Looking further ahead, refill and reuse models seem well-placed to expand post-pandemic. Euromonitor’s latest surveys on sustainability and Covid-19 identified such models as a key form of innovation in response to lockdown, with almost 75% of health, beauty and fashion brands planning to launch in-store or online recycling offerings by 2025 and about half of this proportion exploring refillable or packaging-free formats.

TerraCycle’s chief executive Tom Szaky told edie last year that he strongly believes the “global refill revolution” will continue in the coming years, with refillables and reusables set to become a common business model within a decade.

Sarah George



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