Nature Valley is purposefully not patenting the wrapper, welcoming other food brands to apply the technology to their own product portfolios.
“We’ve removed two key barriers for others to adopt this wrapper technology,” continues Higgins. “The first is the technology — we didn’t have a recyclable packaging option previously. The second is consumer knowledge on store drop-off recycling programs — in March, we’ll be kicking off a campaign to teach consumers about what can be recycled and where to find store drop-off bins near them.”
The newly packaged bars will be available this spring.
Return of the Milkman?
Recycling alone isn’t the only answer to protecting the planet. Replacing one-off disposable products with solutions like reusable and refillable packaging is experiencing an upswing in consumer adoption. This is where Trenton, N.J.-based TerraCycle’s Loop is concentrating its efforts. Loop is a circular e-commerce platform that provides products redesigned for a waste-free shopping experience.
As Loop points out, before the 1950s, products were typically made to be high quality and reusable, and refill models such as the neighborhood milkman were popular.
But we produce and buy more products than we did in the 1950s, the majority of which are sold in single-use packaging — think of that carton of milk — which inevitably becomes waste. Loop is building a global ecosystem for the reuse movement that maintains the convenience and affordability that consumers have come to enjoy with a throwaway lifestyle.
The products available on Loop’s platform are packaged in reusable glass or metal containers and shipped directly to customers in a specially designed tote. The containers are then picked up at no charge, cleaned, refilled and reused to create a circular packaging system.
According to the company, reusing an object saves energy and resources, as the object needs only to be transported and cleaned before it can be cycled again.
Some of the retailers partnering with Loop to offer waste-free shopping include The Kroger Co., European grocer Carrefour, Walgreens and Canadian retailer Loblaw Cos. Ltd.
Reinventing the Plastic Bag
One of the major sustainable initiatives accelerating in retail of late is the search for eco-friendly alternatives to the single-use plastic retail bag.
According to the New York-based Center for the Circular Economy at Closed Loop Partners, the short use (as little as 12 minutes) and long lifespan of the single-use plastic bag have led to rising environmental concerns. With fewer than 10% of the estimated 100 billion plastic bags recycled in the United States, these bags are among the top 10 items polluting beaches and waterways.
Closed Loop Partners’ Consortium to Reinvent the Retail Bag, through its Beyond the Bag Initiative, is a multiyear collaboration across retail sectors that aims to create sustainable and cost-effective retail bag alternatives.
CVS Health, Target and Walmart are founding partners of the consortium. Other partners include Kroger, Dollar General Corp., Albertsons Cos., Hy-Vee, Meijer and Walgreens.
One of the newest partners is Wakefern Food Corp. While its ShopRite banner already offers reusable bags for purchase and provides recycling bins for customers to return used plastic bags, Wakefern saw the consortium as a necessary opportunity to bring important stakeholders together to solve the retail bag challenge.
“Holistic and creative strategies are critical to be able to effectively tackle the complex challenge of plastic waste,” says Robert Zuehlke, manager of corporate social responsibility for Keasbey, N.J.-based Wakefern.
According to Zuehlke, a “better retail bag” entails a number of important facets, including consumer behavior and habits. “Solutions in urban stores may differ from solutions in suburban or rural stores,” he notes, “and solutions at checkout may look different than e-commerce pickup or delivery solutions.”
Last year, the consortium introduced the Beyond the Bag innovation challenge to develop alternatives to the current plastic bag. This past February, it revealed nine winning solutions:
- ChicoBag: A low- to no-cost reusable solution for those prone to forgetfulness.
- Eon: Powering the connected circular bag with CircularID, creating the systems and operations to incentivize circularity.
- SmartC: A smart tag-and-bag system built for the digital generation.
- Domtar: Strong, light and stretchable — a better paper bag.
- Fill it Forward: Consumers give back, track their impact, earn rewards and never forget the bag they already own.
- Goatote: Enabling access to clean, reusable bags no matter where, when or how consumers shop.
- PlasticFri: The company’s Starch-Based Compostable Bag is made from agricultural waste.
- Returnity: Reusable packaging solutions that scale through smart-system deployment.
- Sway: Seaweed-derived replacements for single-use plastic bags.
The consortium will work closely with the winning solutions throughout 2021, supporting design research, prototyping and mentoring toward piloting select solutions in-market.