CPG Companies to Test Reusable Containers

The world’s biggest makers of consumable products will pilot programs aimed at reducing plastic waste.

January 25, 2019

NEW YORK CITY – In an effort to combat waste, the world’s largest manufacturers of detergent, packaged food and personal hygiene products are experimenting with containers designed to be returned, sanitized and refilled, Wall Street Journal reports. Nestlé, Procter & Gamble, PepsiCo and Unilever are among more than two dozen companies working on selling some of their products, like Tropicana orange juice and Tide, in steel, glass and other reusable containers.

“I sometimes wonder if it’s a fair accusation that we’re in the branded litter business,” Alan Jope, CEO of Unilever, told the Journal. “That’s what people care about right now.”

The test, which will start in May with 5,000 New York and Paris shoppers, will be helmed by TerraCycle Inc., a recycling business. Later this year, the test will be run in London, before heading to Tokyo and Toronto in 2020.

“Recycling is not the answer to garbage,” Tom Szaky, CEO of TerraCycle, told the news source. “The real problem is how do we solve waste, and the root cause of waste is disposability.”

Unilever will have nine brands in refillable containers as part of the pilot. Its Dove and Axe stick deodorants will be in a reusable steal container designed to last eight years, thus saving up to 100 traditional deodorant plastic sticks from heading to a landfill.

Refillable containers are nothing new. In 1947, soft drink containers were 100% refillable, and beer containers were 86% refillable, according to the Container Recycling Institute. Those numbers plummeted as single-use plastics became popular. In 1998, refillable soft drink containers had a tiny sliver of the market share (0.4%), while refillable beer containers had a slightly larger share (3.3%).