The cost of plastic bags is doubling to 10p next April in all shops and takeaways.
But isn’t it time to do away altogether not only with the environmentally-disastrous bag, but with plastic packaging in all its shapes and forms?
Welcome to the future. As I unpack my latest shop from a ground-breaking, zero-waste shopping platform called Loop, I find smartly-labelled refillable barrels of pasta and granola, and a swish aluminium spray bottle of window cleaner.
For those angst-ridden about disposable packaging, but unwilling to give up on the convenience of a supermarket shop, Loop appears a dream come true: online orders, delivery to your door, someone taking away the empties, and a warm fuzzy glow about how much plastic you’re saving from landfill.
But could this really revolutionise your weekly shop?
Claire Coleman tested out a ground-breaking, zero-waste shopping platform called Loop. Pictured left: Ordinary supemarket products in plastic packaging, and right, Loop’s plastic-free versions
HOW IT WORKS
It’s a bit like an old-fashioned milk delivery. Everything comes in durable, refillable packaging.
When you buy your products online from loopstore.co.uk, you also pay a deposit on each piece of packaging.
The products turn up in sturdy totes. Once finished with, you put the packaging back in the tote and either schedule a pick up from your home or drop it at one of 2,500 collection points.
Loop then cleans to health and safety standards before refilling. Once you’ve returned your packaging, the deposit is refunded or can be used as credit.
The scheme launched in France and the U.S. last May and now Loop is testing the waters here.
Its head of communications, Stephen Clarke, says it hopes to partner with existing supermarkets rather than rival them.
It’s started with Tesco as ‘founding retail partner’.
Clarke says: ‘Both companies are working together with a view to making food and drink available in reusable packaging at Tesco’s stores as early as 2021.’
PUT TO THE TEST
I log on to the Loop website and quickly find that, as it stands, you can’t do your entire weekly shop.
There are about 160 products available so far, mostly dry goods as well as some cleaning and beauty products.
While some are from big brands — Coca-Cola, Heinz, Nivea — a lot are Loop’s own brand, Nevoli. Other well-known brands are set to join, among them Persil, Finish and Danone.
Ordering is like any other supermarket site except for each product you’re shown the price and the packaging deposit.
In her latest shop, Claire found smartly-labelled refillable barrels of pasta and granola, and a swish aluminium spray bottle of window cleaner
Heinz Tomato Ketchup shows up as £1.45 (the same as Sainsbury’s), plus 55p deposit for the 342 g glass bottle.
You pay a 20p deposit on a litre glass bottle of Coke, 50p for a glass jar containing sugar, mustard or spices, £1 on the metal barrels for cereals, nuts and biscuits — and a huge £5 on the glass pump bottles housing Molton Brown hand wash.
It adds up: by the time I’d finished my shop of 18 products, I’d racked up £23.25 in deposits alone and another £20 for the deposit on the two delivery totes, which seems steep.
But, for now, the scheme’s early adopters have to be willing to pay to ditch the plastic.
Even ignoring the deposits, a basket of groceries I could have bought for £35 in Sainsbury’s cost me more than £60 from Loop.
DELIVER THE GOODS
Because I’d spent so much, delivery — via DPD courier — is free, but if spending under £50 it’s £6.99.
I got a notification from DPD on Saturday morning telling me it planned to deliver, but I wasn’t going to be in.
It was easy to reschedule but, if you’re used to booking a two-hour delivery slot, being notified on the day of a one-hour window might not be as convenient.
When my Loop haul arrived, it became apparent that my idea of a ‘tote’ differed to Loop’s.
What turned up were two rigid, padded hampers, each larger than a carry-on suitcase, with foam dividers to protect my shopping and fabric bags to further protect the glass bottles.
Once I’d unloaded my shop, I was impressed with the product packaging — it looked sleek and smart, and no plastic in sight.
But then I was faced with the issue of what to do with the totes. While they can be folded flat, it makes more sense to leave them intact and drop the containers in as the contents are used up.
But I live in a small flat and space is at a premium.
This is an issue that will disappear once Tesco takes over.
The firm will use the same bags it currently uses and you’ll be able to return your used containers when you get your weekly shop.
SO IS IT WORTH IT?
I have nothing but admiration for what Loop is doing — the problem is you have to have both deep pockets and storage space to buy into the idea.
So I hope — for the sake of all of us trying to cut down on our plastic consumption — that Loop will be properly integrated with a supermarket, making shopping with it easier and cheaper for the consumer.