The Covid-19 pandemic has made online shopping more appealing, yet the practice often comes with extra waste.
The Covid-19 pandemic has made online shopping all the more appealing to millions of people, yet the practice often comes with plenty of extra waste, especially plastic.
Some online shopping services want to do something about that by helping customers wean themselves off single-use plastic products in favor of reusable ones.
One such trailblazing online company is Loop, which delivers groceries and household items to people’s doorstep and already operates in France and the United States. It has also just started offering a zero-waste service dubbed “21st Century Milkman” in the United Kingdom by focusing on brands that sell their merchandise in reusable packaging.
Several leading consumer goods companies, including PepsiCo and Unilever, have embraced the initiative by creating ecofriendly versions of their most popular brands for sale via the website. The company operates in a number of markets, including Japan and the US and has received backing from Sky.
The reusable containers in which groceries and household products are delivered are later collected by Loop. They are then cleaned and reused or recycled for the next customer in what has been described as “one of the most ambitious attempts yet to eliminate plastic waste from the household shop.”
“Customers can place online orders for goods that normally come in single-use plastic packaging. They will be delivered instead in durable, refillable containers that can be collected from the doorstep and cleaned for reuse up to 100 times,” The Guardian newspaper explains. “Heinz’s tomato ketchup, for example, will be delivered in its patented glass octagonal bottles which were designed 130 years ago.”
Nor is Loop the only company targeting increasingly environmentally conscious consumers. A US-based startup called Zero has likewise started implementing a zero-waste scheme via its online grocery store. The company was launched by Zuleyka Strasner, a young entrepreneur who was appalled by the amount of plastic waste littering a previously pristine beach on a small island in the Caribbean off the coast of Nicaragua during her honeymoon there in 2018. Zero received funding from SGH Capital, a Luxembourgish venture capital firm run by Alexandre Azoulay that regularly invests in disruptive startups.
Zero, which currently operates in the Bay Area of San Francisco, delivers some 400 items of groceries from fresh produce to meat products to popcorn in reusable containers, mostly made of glass and silicon. The containers are cleaned by costumers and picked up the next day for use in a new delivery.
Zero-waste shopping is increasingly gaining ground worldwide with more and more businesses offering services that allow their consumers to avoid generating single-use plastic waste. The current Covid-19 crisis has thrown the need for sustainable shopping practices into even sharper relief as home deliveries have become more popular than ever and most of those deliveries generate plenty of excess waste.
Many grocery stores, too, are now generating more plastic waste than before as they require costumers to wear disposable masks and single-use plastic gloves during shopping. In addition, many stores wrap all individual food items such as loafs of bread and fruits in plastic coverings so as to contain the spread of the coronavirus through touch as part of stricter hygiene measures.
Similarly, companies such as Starbucks have temporarily suspended their reusable cup programs for the same reasons in favor of serving drinks in single-use cups. The result is that plenty of single-use plastic items from cups to wrappings end up in landfills or as litter.
That is why with no end to the pandemic in sight, initiatives that aim to reduce single-use plastic waste can perform a vital service to their customers and the planet at large.