In the past few years, as consumers looked to cut down on plastic waste at the grocery store, more mainstream supermarkets turned to bulk shopping bins as a solution. But scoop bins quickly have become a thing of the past this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
For MOM’s Organic Market, a chain of family-owned and operated grocers in the Mid-Atlantic region of the United States that has the purpose of protecting and restoring the environment, it was only a small adjustment.
“[Our reuse] programs are all still in operation, and we’re minimally impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Alexandra DySard, environmental and partnership manager at MOM’s Organic Market, during GreenBiz Group’s clean economy conference VERGE 20 last week.
The chain has taken an innovative tack: it’s still encouraging its shoppers to use reusable containers for all areas of its stores, but it’s changed the way the bulk shopping operates. While scoopable bins are off limits in its stores, the chain is using gravity bins (the ones pictured above), which have a pull-down lever to dispense food without its having any contact with a person’s hand. It’s easy to use and easy to sanitize.
On the B2B side of commerce, there’s another opportunity for reuse. In 2017, when LimeLoop, an IoT solution for sustainable e-commerce shipping logistics, started, it was in response to the amount of waste caused by e-commerce.
“Online shopping was resulting in huge waste piles,” said Chantal Emmanuel, CTO and co-founder of LimeLoop.
Additionally, she said, the brands that LimeLoop was working with faced challenges in making the transition from in-store experiences to an online one. “We saw an opportunity to solve both of these problems through use,” she said.
We knew that we had to have a holistic approach to this solution, because it’s not enough to just drop off 2,000 shippers to a retail company and say, ‘Good luck getting these back.’
In 2017, containers and packaging made up a significant portion of municipal solid waste (MSW), about 80.1 million tons (29.9 percent of total MSW generation), according to the EPA. Reuse can reduce the amount of waste that will need to be recycled or sent to landfills and incinerators.
“[Reuse] is needed. It is possible. It is beneficial. It can be profitable, and it can work for all sizes of business, small, medium and large,” said Holly Kaufman, president of Environment & Enterprise Strategies, who moderated the session about advancing reuse.
How to meet people where they are
LimeLoop partners directly with retail companies and provides them with a set of reusable packages made from upcycled billboard vinyl and lined with recycled cotton. The partner companies are able to use those to fill orders in the same way that they would with a cardboard box or plastic poly mailer, except they’re reusable — for an estimated 200 uses — and…