Guest Post by Tom Szaky, founder of LOOP:
Health and safety are top priority in these times, and at the very start of the pandemic, almost immediately, single-use items took a spotlight as more sanitary than durable. Stores banned bring-your-own shopping bags, reusable coffee mugs and BYO container bulk buying were refused, and a flurry of disposables replaced glass and flatware at restaurants.
The tainted perception of reusables that they were potential vehicles for a virus, disposable packages painted as sterile, but to be clear, unless explicitly labeled “sterile,” single-use is no more safe. Both are potentially exposed to different elements in packing, pallet, and transport, touched by many people. So why the paranoia over reusable bags?
The past few years have seen a world waking up to the pervasiveness of plastic pollution, and as a result, many U.S. states started instituting bans on single-use items such as plastic bags. Now, in this time of intense anxiety, the plastics industry took an opportunity to push cautionary messaging about the virtues of single-use for public health. To a degree, it’s worked.
Fast-forward a bit, and 130 health experts from 20 countries have signed a statement addressing the safety of reusables during the pandemic. Establishments are opening up and servicing customers on durable dishes, and once again, the imperative to view our consumption as a means to prevent future environmental crises are coming back into focus.
So is buying food in reusable containers safe? Our Loop platform, with its returnable, refillable packages for food, drink, and household goods intended to be used, over and over, by many different people, had been a part of this conversation from the beginning.
With our strong sanitization to FDA standards and contactless systems for containers, it’s not only safe, but drives positive change for the economy and environment into a post-COVID world. We were recently honored to be included in Greenpeace’s new report entitled Reusables Are Doable, urging a move away from single-use plastics.
The report also notes that reusable systems can protect workers, customers, and our environment by meeting basic hygiene and distancing requirements. We can also help to get people back to work after the pandemic in strong union jobs that also protect our planet.
Optimistically, Loop sales in April nearly doubled what we did in March (the very month the global pandemic was declared), and we’ve been trending up ever since. Consumers are clearly comfortable with the reuse aspect, as the service is conveniently delivered and was contactless prior to the pandemic, health and safety protocols and industrial cleaning processes in place.
Nature’s Path was one of the first consumer goods brands to be on Loop with packages designed to be reused, reminiscent of bulk buying granola and nuts at the market. The partnership reflects Nature’s Path’s direction to become a zero-waste organization, their three food manufacturing plants the first to be zero waste certified in North America in 2017, and pacing all their packaging to be 100% recyclable, reusable or compostable by 2025.
Now more than ever, we have to do what’s healthiest and most safe, and reusables are definitely a part of that. Businesses, governments, and individuals like you can work together to continue to improve our food systems and protect against future environmental and ecological emergencies. It can be as simple as the things we buy, and we’re here to help with that.