Startups take on supermarket plastic

Plastic still proliferates in our shopping trolleys but these startups are shaking things up.

Startups take on supermarket plastic

Plastic still proliferates in our shopping trolleys but these four startups are shaking things up.

In every corner of the globe, shopping trolleys brimming with virgin plastic pose a significant and growing problem, and one with no easy solution.

The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) estimates that around 40 per cent of new plastics are used in product packaging, making supermarkets major contributors to plastic waste.

In addition to the environmental hazard this poses, new plastics are made from crude oil or gas, making them a major contributor to global greenhouse gas emissions – a whopping 3.4 per cent of them, according to the OECD.

While most of us agree that drastic change is needed, plastic bans and taxes currently don’t go far enough. Some innovative startups are on the case, though, kickstarting new business models focusing squarely on reusable packaging. We take a look at a few of them.


German startup Circolution has created a reusable packaging system for grocery products that enables customers to purchase powdered products like coffee and cocoa in durable containers – initially stainless steel – and then return them to Circolution for cleaning and refilling. The company, which was co-founded by Max Bannasch and counts packaging giant Amcor among its supporters, has recently partnered with Nestle to package its Nesquik product in reusable stainless steel packaging in Germany.

source: Circolution


US company Loop, founded by Tom Szaky, is another circular shopping platform that partners with big brands on reusable packaging for a range of products. Customers pay a deposit when they order online and then receive products at home in durable containers delivered in a tote bag. These products go back into the tote bag for collection at the next delivery to be cleaned, and refilled. Loop recently partnered with Tesco in the UK in an in-store trial that saw 88 products including food staples, personal care, confectionery, and beverages being sold

source: Loop


Chile-based company Algramo, founded by José Manuel Moller, specialises in providing refill stations for various products. Customers bring along their own containers to refill products like detergents and cleaning supplies. Algramo, which sells products “by the gram”, started out selling its wares on the city outskirts but has more recently partnered with large brands such as Unilever, Walmart and Nestle to bring contact-free dispensing in store.

source: Algramo


Vending machines for milk, dairy and other types of produce are growing in popularity in the UK. The Milk Station Company, for example, sells vending machines to local dairies that allow farmers to sell their milk directly to the public. Because customers are tasked with filling their own reusable glass milk bottles, another big benefit of this model is that the use of packaging in the dairy supply chain is also significantly reduced.

source: Milk Station Company