Companies are offering an in-home refillable product service to address growing trash and recycling problem

As the world continues to confront a growing trash and recycling problem, some companies provide old-fashioned services with a modern twist.

Like the milkman from days past, startups such as Loop, Blueland and others are rolling out e-commerce businesses that provide well-known name brand products to consumers’ homes in refillable containers.

Loop debuted in several East Coast markets this past spring including Delaware. It started with the goal of reducing the solid waste these items would otherwise produce.

Customers sign up online, and receive refillable containers for products they select in a reusable shipping tote, with a returnable cash deposit.

When something runs low, they place an online order, and their refills arrive within 48 hours.

Loop public relations manager Charlotte Maiden said they handle items from ice cream to toothpaste to cleaning products, with the goal of having numerous different brands on one platform.

Loop’s parent company, New Jersey-based TerraCycle, has a few other programs for waste-conscious consumers, including one that recycles stuff most recycling centers don’t accept, Maiden said.

“People are seeing the effects of excess garbage and climate change on a day to day basis,” Maiden said. “And we can’t recycle our way out of this problem.”

For Lewes resident Jordan Woodall, signing up for Loop was done out of convenience, and concern for the environment.

“I live kind of near the beach, so we tend to be careful about what could make its way into the ocean,” Woodall said. “I watch what I throw away and the garbage I generate.”

Woodall drives an electric car and tries to reduce his carbon footprint whenever he’s able.

Loop is part of that plan. They partner with UPS for deliveries instead of using an in-house logistics company, which would increase road traffic.

For Woodall, who gets “a little bit of everything” from Loop, being consciously aware of the refuse and pollution issues is important in helping create a personal stake in the matter.

“I am just more and more conscious of my use of plastics,” Woodall said. “And they’re so pervasive; everything is plastic or being shipped in plastic. I think this is the best way to minimize that.”

Nationwide problem

According to research and resource group Annenberg Learner, the U.S. generates roughly 230 million tons of trash per year – around 4.6 pounds per person per day.

Less than one-quarter of that 230 million tons is recycled; the rest is incinerated or buried in landfills.

In 2017, Delawareans disposed of 1,207,029 tons of solid waste, according to Michael Globetti, Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control spokesman.

They diverted 520,110 tons of material, giving the state a recycling rate of roughly 43 percent, which ranks Delaware high nationally, Globetti said. Recycling is mandatory in all three counties.

In Delaware, solid waste is controlled and managed by the Division of Waste and Hazardous Substances through various programs on the regulatory side, and the Delaware Solid Waste Authority on the operational side.

According to Globetti, DNREC regulates activities in accordance with the state’s Universal Recycling Law and Universal Recycling Regulations, which have requirements for haulers, multi-family property managers, and the commercial sector.

The department issues permits for transporters moving waste to ensure that they operate in accordance with state and federal transportation standards, he said.

Permits are also issued for solid waste activities. The treatment methods include recycling, composting, transferring, resource recovery, and disposal, he noted.

“The permitting process is designed to ensure that facilities operate in a way to protect human health and the environment,” Globetti said.

From an operations perspective, DSWA runs many facilities used by the public for solid waste disposal.

There are three landfills and three transfer stations (one in each county), and a network of five convenience centers for drop-off throughout Kent and Sussex County.