By Kate Shackelford
We hear it everywhere, “Our waste production is killing the environment.” “Islands of plastic are forming in the oceans.” “Our world needs help.” Introducing Loop, one possible solution to this seemingly impossible problem.
photo courtesy of loopstore.com
This Lent, my family chose a slightly unusual item to give up: single-use plastic. Over the course of only a few days, we began to realize that this task was going to be a lot harder than we initially thought. The struggle was real. Everything, literally everything, is packaged in plastic. Even the plastic forks at our school cafeteria are packaged in plastic. In other words, giving up single-use plastic meant I had to ultimately give up so much more. I could not have a smoothie in the morning because the frozen fruit was packaged in plastic. My family could not buy toilet paper without plastic packaging. We were already failing only a few days in.
Plastic invades every aspect of our lives, from our toothbrushes to the dinner leftovers in ziploc bags. Furthermore, after a plastic object has fulfilled its single use, it will end up in the landfill or the ocean. Scientists have predicted that the plastic in the ocean will outweigh the fish by 2050. Microplastics, plastic pieces smaller than five millimeters, can get into the air and into the bodies of living organisms with unpredictable consequences. Previously proposed solutions, such as recycling, are not garnering enough success to make an actual change.
However, a new idea has been proposed that shows much promise. In January, founder of TerraCycle Tom Szaky proposed a project called Loop at the World Economic Forum. This project is designed to bring back the “milkman concept”: after a milkman would drop off milk in the morning, later that evening, he would pick up bottles to be refilled. Loop has brought this concept back to life in order to transform single-use disposables into durable, reusable containers. To do so, Loop is partnering with UPS to deliver customers a tote bag full of products in reusable packaging. After using the products, people put the containers back in the tote bag and place it on the doorstep to be picked up. The bottles are then cleaned, refilled and sent back out for delivery. Loop is partnering with trusted, reliable brands such as Pantene, Tide, Haagen-Dazs, Crest, Gillette, Always and Dove to provide good quality products. Prices are expected to be about the same as those purchased in stores, but customers will have to pay a refundable deposit on the packaging.
The project aims to take the burden off the consumer. Loop customers will no longer have to worry about what to recycle or throw away, nor will they have to question whether their recycled products are actually being recycled. Loop takes care of it all, making it easier to reduce waste and live plastic free.
Other companies are striving to meet more environmentally conscious goals as well. Ecosia, an alternative search engine to Google, uses ad revenue to plant trees around the world in areas that are in need. The servers run on 100% renewable energy, and every search removes one kilogram of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. Reformation, a retail store, tracks their environmental footprint by calculating how much carbon dioxide they emit, water they use and waste they produce. Then, they donate to programs that help replace the resources they have used, such as the Water Restoration Program and the Brazilian Rosewood Amazon Conservation Project.
While their environmental efforts are steps in the right direction, neither of these two businesses nor Loop can completely eliminate waste and solve the major problem society faces today. There is no one miracle solution to the world’s waste problem. However, businesses and projects like Loop can help to raise awareness of the harmful environmental impacts that come from the overproduction of waste and provide innovative ways for people to join the reduced-waste effort.