There was a time in 20th century America and elsewhere that the sight of the milkman and milk truck was quite common. Uniformed deliverymen carrying glass bottles clinked up and down sidewalks as they replaced empty bottles with full ones. Yes, there was the inconvenience of having to rinse out the bottles, but for a certain generation, the sight of the milkman was a common occurrence. The milkman was part of the community. The occupation disappeared eventually in the US because of unfavorable economics and changed business models.

Fast-forward to the 21st century and we find the new equivalent taking hold. While the economics may not yet be favorable, enough companies are re-evaluating their business models to include the concept of reusable containers. Marketing forces are convincing companies to create communities around their products. Reusable packaging is an opportunity to capture and consolidate consumers. Why now?

Businesses have heard the sustainability wake-up call and are taking action to address issues like the uncontrolled plastic waste problem and conserving resources to enable the future. A new shopping platform LoopTM created by Terracycle is now in pilot stage in France and northeast US. Major companies like Proctor & Gamble (P&G), Nestlé, Unilever, PepsiCo, Mondelez International and Danone and smaller start ups will begin to offer their products in reusable containers online and in physical stores.

The circular economy – an innovation engine

Powered by Terracycle’s circular-economy business model that is informed by sustainability, Häagen-Dazs is moving to refillable, metal containers for ice cream. P&G has developed new packaging for Pantene, Tide and Cascade products. Terracycle has been the company behind the remanufacturing of plastics from collection and recycling of hard to recycle materials. For instance plastics made from recycled ocean plastic are used for bottles and containers made by P&G.

Design for reuse has brought an entirely new innovation cycle in materials design and packaging. Folks that remember those milk bottles may remember the associated hassle of making sure they were clean before pick up. The Terracycle folks have figured out how to remove the problem.

If more industries and companies were to spend the time to reimagine and redevelop their businesses through the circular economy or sustainability lenses, we would truly restore a thriving planet for future generations.

We enable change leadership. Sustainability and climate change are areas where we see leaders grappling with starting and/or sustaining efforts. Get in touch if your company needs a journey partner to help you address climate change and the circular economy.

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