How To Save The World From Plastic Pollution

There is not one solution, we all know that. But let’s take a look back in time for a possible solution to plastic pollution. In a past-era, we had a solution that worked. Why not try that option once again. The returnable, refillable container of last century that was a sure thing introduced by Coca Cola in the 1920’s. It ensured customer satisfaction and more importantly, customer loyalty.


Coca Cola sold its desirable liquid in expensive bottles that the company needed to be returned for the next drink batch, and the batch after that, and the batch after that one, and so on. The bottle was reused 40 or 50 times. That’s an excellent usage record for one glass bottle.

How did it work? Simple. The company included a deposit charge. In those days, a two-cent deposit equated to about 40% of the full cost of the bottle of drink in the 1920’s. They secured around 98% return of their bottles. The deposit system is a highly successful model for securing the return of the original product, in this case the glass packaging.

This is a closed loop system, where the purchaser rents the container or packaging and buys the content. The idea of generating trash or getting rid of the container is not an option. So why is there not a surge in the regeneration of the conservation within the consumerism marketing approach?

It has been reintroduced when Szaky reintroduced the Loop approach for his online delivery service. The Loop market sells over 300 different items, in containers of various size and made from various materials. One can purchase food products, like ice cream right out to the more boring household items such as cleaning products.

The Loop signature product is the Häagen-Dazs ice cream sold in an insulated stainless steel tub. This means no softening, no melt. Just firm, cold ice cream by the time it reaches your home. Refillables are a serious, viable solution for the plastic waste crisis that the globe is presently facing. It is a way forward for future waste control but does not address the present plastic waste crisis.


Other initiatives are the ‘Bring you own refillable cup’ in cafes and coffee houses. The sale of coffee in refillable cups means we can avoid filling the landfills with once-used, thin-plastic-film lined paper cups. That’s another great retro step to reducing our plastic footprint.

The circular economy can also replace those very convenient one-serving of coffee, or sugar, or soup, or detergent, and so on. These single-serve sachets are typically in a plastic-type packaging. Yes, affordable. No, waste generators. Instead, we need to revert back to vending machine filling your container with a limited or selected  amount.

This container deposit – returnable item would not have grabbed the market several years back. But now that the outcry against plastics is so loud, the ‘Loop method’ can actually shout louder and grab the attention of investors and consumers. A global crisis makes the global population open its eyes and its mind.

How successful is Szaky with the ‘Loop  model’? He gave his pitch at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland and he secured big producers like Coca-Cola and Pepsi Cola, Unilever, Proctor and Gamble all to sign on.

This is only part of the story about the future of plastic but it’s a great place to rethink and restart the process of consumerism.

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About Claire Cosgrove

Dr Claire Cosgrove, Ph.D., is an independent Environmental Scientist and Educator. Looking to establish a consultancy company: “Cultural Awareness, Environmental Mindfulness”. Formerly a Professor of Environmental Sciences in the College of Engineering at AMA International University, Salmabad, Kingdom of Bahrain. Before moving to the Middle East in 2009, Dr Claire was a Research Scientist based in the USA at the University of Virginia, Charlottesville and at Georgia Institiute of Technology in Atlanta, Georgia. Dr Cosgrove has lived and worked in a number of countries such as South Africa, USA, New Zealand and the Middle East. Her research work has covered air pollution, weather modification /cloud seeding, rainfall modelling and simulation and flood forecasting, to name a few areas of interest.

2 Responses to How To Save The World From Plastic Pollution

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