Loop Brings Zero Waste Shopping to Japan

Loop Brings Zero Waste Shopping to Japan

With the climate crisis intensifying, businesses are taking steps to reduce the waste they generate.

Of the 1.8 billion tons of domestic waste disposed of worldwide in 2018, one-third came from packaging. More than 380 million tons of plastics are produced every year, and they account for 40% of the world’s packaging waste. 

Japan produces 9.15 million tons of plastic waste every year. Reports from 2018 suggest that Japan recycles 84% of its plastic waste. Despite having a recycling infrastructure, very little plastic actually gets recycled and the process used for recycling is incineration. Around 67% of Japan’s plastic waste is incinerated (which releases harmful toxins in the process) and 8% ends up in landfills. 

The recyclable and reusable packaging subsidiary of TerraCycle, Loop, has emerged as a solution to the growing problem of food packaging waste. Loop has recently partnered with the Japanese supermarket chain Aeon to bring down the country’s share of plastic waste. 

Let’s take a look at what Loop is, how it works and why this collaboration is important for reducing plastic waste in Japan.

What is Loop?

Loop is a company dedicated to reducing the waste generated by the packaging industry. It seeks to provide zero waste versions of everyday essentials. Supermarkets that partner with Loop allow consumers to “borrow” packaging for a 100% refundable deposit. Loop’s packaging is made of steel and glass, making it not just durable but also fit for repeated use. 

Upon using a product, consumers can have the sustainable packaging either replenished or returned for a full refund of their deposit. Customers can return the containers by scheduling a free pickup or, in some cases, by returning it to physical locations, such as UPS offices or Loop’s retail partners. The company also offers delivery services, wherein it replaces traditional cardboard delivery packaging with Loop totes (bags in which customers receive their delivered products and can put their empty containers into).

Why the supermarket chain Aeon is the right partner for Loop’s mission

Loops partner Aeon has been actively involved in environmental activism outside Japan as well. In Hong Kong, Aeon gives coupons and discounts to customers to encourage them to use their own reusable packaging instead of single-use plastics when they order from Aeon’s in-store food outlets. 

Aeon has also been actively involved in other environmental initiatives, such as the “Bringing Shopping Bags Campaign” and the collection of food trays and PET bottles. Aeon and Loops partnership has received the support of the Tokyo Metropolitan Government as well. 

Challenges to the adoption of reusable packaging

Businesses and consumers are in the habit of using plastics. Plastic packages are cheaper and can keep food fresh. Thus, when trying to make customers adopt sustainable purchasing practices, it is important to make the process as simple as possible.

 On using Loop tote to collect the used containers, Loop’s founder and CEO Tom Szaky says, “We’re trying to emulate the way you do your recycling at home.” Besides ingrained habits, another challenge that faces a company like Loop is the need for collaboration with many different partners. The producers of the products, the stores where these products are sold and the consumers all need to work together to make Loop work in the desired way. 

However, in spite of these challenges, Loop has been growing. Launched in 2019 in the U.S. and France, the company has since then expanded to other countries, including Canada, the United Kingdom, Australia and Japan, and provides its services online, in-store and in restaurants. 

Header image courtesy of Loop’s Facebook page

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