Sources: Ellen MacArthur Foundation; P&G, The Wall Street Journal
Analysts say Loop, which charges a flat shipping fee of $15 for orders under $100 and deposits of as much as $10, is aimed at the wealthy and therefore unlikely to scale widely. Loop says it is still in pilot phase and costs will drop as it scales and starts joining with more retailers.
An August survey by Global Data showed 71% of 2,000 U.K. shoppers polled said they would buy food from a refill store if the option were available. Shoppers aged 16 to 24 were more than twice as likely to have shopped for food refillables as older ones.
Curtis Rogers of Austin, Texas, washes his clothes with P&G’s Tide, which comes in hard plastic containers, but the 38-year-old entrepreneur said he would switch to any brand that offers detergent refills.
“Hard plastic will last forever, which makes it a great candidate for refilling and reusing,” he said, adding that brands should set up refill stations at farmers markets and outside stores.
Despite consumer interest, refillable packaging is rare due to logistical complications around cleaning, returning and refilling.
“As soon as you raise the barrier of convenience or cost to consumers their propensity to change their behavior changes significantly,” said Simon Lowden, PepsiCo’s chief sustainability officer.
Just 3% of packaging from 139 consumer goods companies, retailers and packaging producers polled by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation—a nonprofit focused on waste—is designed to be reusable.
Notable examples are mostly limited to beverages, like water jugs for offices or bottle-deposit programs. In Brazil, Coca-Cola Co. is investing about $25 million to launch “a universal bottle,” which can be returned and refilled with of its brands.
Beyond drinks, past trials have flopped. Walmart Inc. ’s U.K. unit, Asda Group Ltd., a decade ago ran a trial selling fabric conditioner in refillable pouches. The conditioner was transported to stores in bulk, stored at the back and piped into the aisle. It failed to take off because there were spillages and shoppers didn’t reuse the pouches enough.
Using alternative materials can also get messy. Nestlé this summer launched a line of its Nesquik powder in paper packets rather than plastic tubs. But a sample sent to The Wall Street Journal arrived leaking. A company spokeswoman said it found “no major issues” with the packaging in regular use, and said it was likely due to the product arriving via mail.
Paper, as well as being less resilient, requires more water and energy to produce, argue plastic manufacturers. Plastic also better protects against contamination and food waste.
Helen Bird of WRAP, a British nonprofit, said plastic-reduction targets “could encourage the wrong behavior” given that all materials have some environmental impact. Instead, WRAP encourages companies to scrap unnecessary plastic and ensure what remains is recycled.
Corrections & Amplifications
Simon Lowden is PepsiCo’s chief sustainability officer. An earlier version of this article incorrectly gave Mr. Lowden’s previous title, president of PepsiCo’s global snacks group. (Nov. 26, 2019)
Source: Wall Street Journal, November 27, 2019 | Saabira Chaudhuri