Separate Collection of Waste is Not Enough

If we think about the issues that concern the consumers in relation to protecting the environment, we will definitely find packaging in the Top 5. Nowadays, it is difficult to imagine any product without packaging. It has been a permanent part of our daily life.

In Europe, 40% of the produced plastics goes solely for packaging. Lately, most of them are made of polyethylene (PE), polypropylene (PP), polyethylene terephthalate (PET), polyethylene with high (HDPE) or low density (LDPE), according to Denkstatt’s analysis.

Interestingly, the majority of packaging on the market are composites. In other words they are made from several different types of plastic or even from different materials. A typical example of a composite package is the milk carton which consists of several layers – paper , aluminum and a few plastics.

Although this type of packaging is great with preserving the product, it is extremely hard to recycle. Prior recycling, all the different materials have to be divided.

This is necessary because each material is recycled under specific conditions (such as temperature).

Detachment is an expensive and complex process that takes considerable time and resources. Therefore, this type of packaging is often thrown away or burned. That’s why the separate collection of waste is no longer enough, regardless of the material.  

The global trends are in favor of reducing packaging as a whole, especially single-use packaging which is used in the majority of food and cosmetic industry.

That’s how circular shopping platforms were created. In the last couple of years, they gained popularity in the USA, Canada and Australia, as well as in some Western European countries, such as France and the United Kingdom, and even in Japan.

The idea is based on the so-called „milkman model“ – the well-known method of the last century in which the milkman delivers milk in glass bottles to people’s homes and collects the empty ones from the previous delivery, therefore the glass bottles are used multiple times.

Today, the most popular platform providing this type of service is Loop, established in 2019. The client orders the products they need (they vary from rice and ice cream to mouthwash and peanut butter) and Loop delivers them to the client’s home in special containers for multiple use.

When the client finishes the product they can make another order. During the delivery the empty containers are collected by the delivery man.

After the proper disinfection the containers can be used again and again. This way the client gets the product they need but the packaging remains property of the platform.  

Leaving the responsibility for the packaging to the producer turns the packaging into something more than a cost.

The producer has the motivation to make the packaging look and function better. The innovative design and the idea behind circular shopping platforms inspire customers towards more responsible consumption.

It is important to point out that the platform does not offer products launched by niche brands or brands that target specifically “e-customers”. They focus on well-known products and brands, purchased by the average consumer.

First, this is a great way to reach a larger audience. Second, big manufacturers support the change towards better and more sustainable packaging of products for daily use.

Some major retailers already offer this type of service. This model becomes more and more popular, however, it is still unknown if the usage and delivery to and from the home of the consumer is a sustainable decision regarding the containers life cycle assessment.

Unfortunately, this model remains mostly unknown in Bulgaria. At the moment, retailers choose other sustainable practices such as zero waste shops, which are popular all over Europe.

However, they have one main disadvantage – consumers have to plan when they want to go in order to carry containers for the products they need.

There is no one-size-fits-all solution for every market but it is undeniable that there are more and more options to these type of services. Their popularity is increasing and they reach the average consumer like never before.

This way the consumer gets informed that there is not only a problem but that there are more accessible and more convenient solutions to that problem.

The separate collection of waste is no longer enough – a major decrease in the usage of packaging is needed in addition.

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