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Reusable Packaging: The Role of The Retailer

July 4, 2019

In recent months, awareness has grown about the huge environmental impact non-biodegradable plastics are having on the environment, particularly on animal life and in oceans.

Smart brick-and-mortar retailers should realize that ‘managing the package’ is becoming an important part of the purchasing cycle. Some bricks and mortar retailers are trying to figure out their destiny in a world where more and more purchases are made online and delivered directly to the consumer. Rather than continuing to be bypassed during the purchasing cycle, retailers should realize how important the management of packaging will become. Retailers have an opportunity to create strong customer loyalty by creating a new kind of convenience.

TerraCycle, a leading innovator in recycling and reusable management, is championing several projects internationally. Their new project – The Loop – is a pilot project with a number of brands testing reusable packaging. It will mean change in the customer proposition: rather than the consumer purchasing the package and the product, consumers will simply rent the package— a deposit is put down on the package when the product is bought and refunded when the package is returned.

At present, TerraCycle’s most high-profile partners in the development of reusables are CPGs: P&G, Nestle, Mars, and Unilever. In the pilot project, the brands are partnering with an online retailer: the consumer sends back their reusable containers from where they were delivered and the deposit refunds are credited to their account.

Sounds easy enough, right?

Consumer choices occur for a number of reasons. If a store doesn’t have the ice cream flavour you like in reusable packaging, or the price you want to pay, do you go back to a brand with throwaway packaging?

And for the consumer, there may be more to manage. Which reusable packaged brands are where? Where do I find time and materials to sort and send packages back? Did I get my refunded deposits? Managing and storing both recyclables and reusables at home will add more time and effort to the food shopping week.

This is where a retailer can take a significant leadership role. A retailer with a strong private label program that chooses to switch as much as possible to reusable packaging can become a community hub. They can also take on reusable returns for brands, do more of the cleaning and sorting, and also manage streams of recyclable packaging materials not yet in reusables.

In this new retailing future, consumers will arrive at their store, return all their empty reusables, get their deposit refunds, and then shop again for their weekly requirements. This is already the model for The Beer Store – and that’s just for beer. Imagine it working across all categories for thousands of SKUs in all kinds of reusable packages.


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