TerraCycle, a Trenton-based company that specializes in finding uses for hard-to-recycle waste, is trying to remove trash from the equation altogether with a new program called “The Loop.” It’s a more advanced take on the old “milkman” idea, in which products are delivered and empty containers returned to be re-used.

The Loop delivers products like toothpaste, detergent, and mayonnaise to consumers’ homes via UPS. But instead of being in their usual disposable packaging, Loop products are in re-usable containers. And the deliveries come not in a cardboard shipping box, but in a re-usable tote. When customers are done with the product, they put the empty container back in the tote and leave it on their doorstep for shipment back to TerraCycle, which sends the customer a replacement product right away. In some cases, customers can take empties back to a store instead of shipping.

The consumer also pays a small deposit for the sturdy container, which they get back if they choose not to have it refilled. TerraCycle is partnering in the experimental program with brands like Tide, Crest, Pantene, Axe, Dove, and others. Major manufacturers of consumer products, such as Unilever, are looking at the Loop as an experiment to see whether consumers will buy in to the idea.

The pilot program is launching in northern France and the New York area, including parts of Pennsylvania and New Jersey, this May. The company plans to expand to other cities beginning later in 2019. To sign up and shop for an initial list of 300 products, visit www.loopstore.com.

TerraCycle CEO Tom Szaky discussed the Loop at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, earlier this month. “As a response to the global challenge in managing waste and the opportunity to improve consumers’ experience, a group of committed global brands, retailers, and infrastructure companies, along with the World Economic Forum have come together to create a new way to more responsibly consume products,” Szaky said.

“Loop will not just eliminate the idea of packaging waste, but greatly improve the product experience and the convenience in how we shop. Through Loop, consumers can now responsibly consume products in specially designed durable, reusable, or fully recyclable packaging made from materials like alloys, glass, and engineered plastics. When a consumer returns the packaging, it is refilled, or the content is reused or recycled through groundbreaking technology.”

Terracycle says the Loop relies on technology developed by TerraCycle and its partners. The program is managed by TerraCycle. To participate, partner companies had to pay TerraCycle and also invent new types of container, aiming to meet TerraCycle’s goal of surviving at least 100 uses. One of the more advanced containers is Haagen-Dazs’ cream cooler, which can keep ice cream frozen for a day and a half.

Although the Loop is currently a standalone website, Szaky hopes to integrate it into Amazon and get it onto store shelves. Its overseas partners include the French grocery giant Carrefour and British chain Tesco.

TerraCycle, 121 New York Avenue, Trenton 08638. 609-393-4252. Tom Szaky, CEO. www.terracycle.com.

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