Imagine being able to shop for your favourite brands delivered straight to your front door and to return the empty bottles and canisters. This is the idea behind Loop, an online zero-waste packaging shopping platform, where you can buy food and toiletries products sold in durable packaging that can be returned to be cleaned, refilled and reused. Read on to get a special discount if you would like to try it.
Created by Terracycle, Loop has partnered with well-known brands such as Procter & Gamble, Nestlé, PepsiCo, Unilever, Mars, Coca-Cola, Mondelēz, Danone etc … who have redesigned some of their packagings to be plastic-free. After first rolling out in the US and France last year, the circular shopping service launched in the UK in July, in partnership with Tesco.
In order to limit the amount of plastic and packaging in everyday products, I try to shop at zero-waste stores for essentials, such as flour, rice, pasta, porridge, sugar etc …. I also bring empty containers to refill with washing-up liquid or laundry detergent.
As a family, we have opted for some easy switches, such as bar soaps instead of shower gel bottles (a no-brainer) or solid shampoo bars for liquid shampoo (not a successful swap so far, especially for the conditioner). We also have our milk delivered in reusable glass bottles, our toilet paper delivered in bulk, plastic-free, and we order fruit and vegetables from our local farm, packed in reusable tote bags.
Juggling between different suppliers and staying organised can be a struggle. On top of this, COVID-19 has really made a dent in our zero-waste efforts and over the past five months or so plastic and excess packaging have crept back into our lives. So imagine my excitement when I learned that my long wait for Loop UK was finally over. Terracycle kindly offered me an opportunity to try out the service.
How does it work?
First and foremost, you need to register to the Loop store. After signing up, you are able to access the online shopping section and start browsing.
Each order is delivered in a Loop Tote bag, for which you need to pay a £5 refundable deposit per bag. For safety purposes, during transport the totes are fitted with external tamper seals.
Loop UK has three main sections: Groceries, Household Essentials and Personal Care & Beauty.
Throughout the store, Loop’s own brand Nevoli offers a wide range of essential products from coffee to sugar to shower gel and cleaning products, all packaged in reusable stainless steel or glass containers. The stainless steel packaging is very stylish and can smartly sit on any worktop.
Most of the other branded products, such as Coca-Cola, Heinz Ketchup, Jackpot peanut butter, Molton Brown, REN skincare, Nivea Men etc.. are available in their usual packaging, labelled with a Loop sticker so they can be returned and refilled. Danone has redesigned its yoghurt packaging in glass jars.
The total cost of each product includes a deposit for the container. The deposit is 100% refundable as soon as you return the products. Deposits vary from 20p for a bottle of Coca-Cola to £5 for a Molton Brown’s hand soap.
Once you are done with the products you can put them back into the Loop Tote and schedule a free pick-up or return them at one of Loop’s drop off points or you can schedule a pick-up to coincide with your next delivery. There’s no need to wash anything as Loop will clean and refill the bottles and containers to be reused again. All in all its a very neat way to shop but unfortunately I could not help feeling a little disappointed.
Why am I not convinced?
As you might have guessed by now, Loop has been on my radar for a while and I really wanted to love it. Sadly, it did not fully live up to my expectations.
After my initial disappointment with the limited range of products available, I was not impressed by the prices. Most of the branded products are sold on Loop at comparable prices to high street retailers. However, the bulk of the products are Loop’s own brand, Nevoli, and these are way more expensive than other supermarkets’ own brands.
The 220g Roast Ground Coffee is priced at £5.50 (+£0.50 deposit) while 650g of Fusilli Pasta will set you back £3.50 (+£1 deposit). I could not find a way to justify Nevoli’s prices especially as the products are pretty standard. They do not have any of the eco-credentials or certifications, such as organic, fairtrade or cruelty-free, that I usually do not mind paying a premium for.
To me this is a missed opportunity, especially when you consider Loop’s eco-minded customer base. Here is a breakdown of my bill (including the £31.20 deposit for the totes and containers that I will get back):
Being able to have products delivered straight to your door is really useful, especially in the days of social distancing. Still, my order of 11 products was delivered in two very big Loop Totes. That was a bit of overkill as there was a lot of unused space.
The totes are also quite bulky and they do not fold easily, so you have to find a way to store them until your next order. Thankfully we had some space in the garage but they would be really unpractical for anyone living in a flat. If you are lacking space, storing the totes will be an issue unless you want to get creative and use them as temporary coffee tables or foot-rests.
These large, half-empty totes must also be very inefficient to transport.
3. Lack of ethical brands
For a customer base made from eco-centric customers, Loop definitely lacks in ethical brands (something I also feel is worth paying a premium for). Packaging is, of course, an important component of a product but so are the eco-credentials of the ingredients as well as the economic, environmental and social impact of the company making the product.
4. It is not completely plastic-free
When shopping for zero-waste products I often get obsessed with any plastic that is used. Here the tamper seals are plastic, and the caps of the Nevoli’s jars are sealed with a plastic seal. It would be good to see those replaced with reusable alternatives.
I really wanted to love Loop but I am not sure I will become a regular customer. Right now I am happy to continue bringing my own containers to zero-waste shops and get all the basics I need at a price I can afford.
Because of the similarity of service, I feel that a partnership with a doorstep milk delivery company would be a better option, to do away with the bulky totes and reduce transport emissions.
However, if you have the money (and the space), Loop is a company worth getting behind. Terracycle is such an innovative company. I will certainly keep watching out for Loop, hoping that as it grows, its prices and product selection will become a better match for my wallet and ethics.
If you would like to try the service yourself, Loop has kindly offered a 20% discount code on your first order. To take advantage of this offer just use the following Sign-Up Link and Code before September 30th 2020.
Sign-Up Link: https://bit.ly/2CppK6p
20% Discount Code: FLEXITARIAN20
I would love to hear what you think, so do not forget to leave a comment below.
Disclaimer: this review is sponsored by Loop. All thoughts and opinions remain my own and are completely honest.