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New service sells brand-name products without plastic containers

New service helps cut down on plastics

Langhorne, Pennsylvania — Like millions of Americans, Cheryl Suvalic has products delivered to her house, but the new service she's testing is different. "It's just like any other ecommerce shopping site," she said. "You order your products. Everything about the entire order is there's nothing to recycle, everything is reusable."

The site, called Loop, sells dozens of brand-name products from Tide detergent to Haagen-Dazs ice cream in stainless-steel or other reusable containers. When Suvalic is done, she ships them back.

"Loop is a reboot of the milkman," said Tom Szaky, the CEO of TerraCycle, the company behind Loop. He points out that the vast majority of containers end up in a landfill or the ocean.

The Environmental Protection Agency said only about 9 percent of the plastic created in the U.S. is recycled. Loop's containers are sent to a plant where they're washed, sterilized and sent to the manufacturer to be refilled.

"The world's biggest companies from P&G to Nestle, from Mars to Unilever to Clorox, Coke and Pepsi, all of these guys, have joined in," Szaky said. "When you move from single-use products and packages to multi-use, what you're doing is you're eliminating the need to create packaging over and over and over."

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Cornell professor Glen Dowell likes the concept but said all that shipping has an environmental impact. "When we think about the footprint of the transportation of getting the containers back and forth, it's going to be quite a few times that these containers have to be reused before they're better in an environmental sense than the plastic containers they replace," he said.

LoopStore.com will be available to the public Tuesday. Suvalic paid a one-time deposit of $2.50 for each container and a $7 shipping fee for each order.

But she believes it's money well spent. "I do it because I believe in the program," she said, "and I believe in the concept."

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