Recycled plastic is sneaky.
When you see the word “Recyclable” on a plastic beverage bottle or food container, it means that it can be recycled into something else that is also made of plastic.
The chances are slim that this bottle or container is going to be recycled back into food-grade plastic to make another bottle or food container.
The reason for this is, if you throw away a plastic food or beverage container along with other “recyclable” plastic items, these higher-quality food-grade plastics tend to become contaminated and just end up being recycled into lower-quality, non-food grade plastics. And so they are lost to us…
This small technicality creates a huge impact on the environment because it means that, although this “recyclable” bottle or food container will not necessarily end up somewhere on a beach or in a street or in a landfill, it will also not return as a food-grade bottle or container.
This means that new food & beverage bottles and containers still need to be produced, which results in even more plastic that eventually needs to be recycled.
While Stephanie and Marcus were figuring out how to put Loopedin together they came upon the problems posed by single-use plastic waste in Singapore. To confirm that they understood this issue thoroughly, they conducted extensive research into various materials to make sure that they were going to focus on the right one for the start of Loopedin.
So, why plastic?
Well, glass is not used in the mainstream FMCG market, where the majority of issues around usage and disposal occur. Stainless steel is heavy, dense, cannot be used in the microwave oven and recycling is not straightforward. Silicone can be recycled multiple times, but the process to break it down for reuse is energy-intensive, complicated and expensive.
Because it has become such a ubiquitous material used in all aspects of our daily lives, the problems that have resulted from single-use plastic are not inherent in the material itself, but in how we use it.
We waste a huge amount of fossil fuels and other finite energy sources in producing plastic items that we use only once and then simply throw away. After decades of this the planet is eventually suffocating from all the plastic clogging up its ecosystems.
To address the issue of single-use plastics in Singapore, initially focussing on FMCG, Loopedin thus decided on polypropylene (known as Plastic No. 5 or PP Plastic) as a viable point-of-entry material.
PP Plastic durable, lightweight, easy to sanitise, highly-stackable and highly-recyclable. It is the ideal material for a reusable container used in a closed loop system with mainstream adoption by the food & beverage industry.
A key element to successfully implementing any circular economic model is to accurately quantify the environmental impact of that model.
Loopedin has referenced several notable Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) studies conducted within the circular economy environment to develop its initial estimations from startup. These LCA’s focus mainly on the systematic analysis of the potential environmental impacts of products or services during their entire life cycle.
Here are, by way of example, certain highlights from a publication by the United Nations Environment Programme*:
● In regions where renewable electricity makes up a high proportion of the power-grid composition, recycling rates are low and consumers are generally aware and responsible as far as container reuse, disposal and recycling are concerned. Reusable containers emerge as the overall better alternative under such socio-economic conditions.
● Hot drinks are best served in reusable cups. With efficient washing and sanitizing, these reusable containers are more environmentally sound than other single-use alternatives.
● Reusable cups are a better option and have lower environmental impact compared to other single-use alternatives where cold drinks are concerned. Reusable cold cups are especially effective for public events, especially smaller-scale gatherings which have a lower percentage of stock loss.
● Studies have determined that the breakeven point for reusable cups (the number of times a reusable cup needs to be used for the impact to be similar or better than a single-use cup) is well within the assumed container life-spans.
● The studies determined breakeven points can range between 10 to 670 uses, depending on specific uses, material compositions, cleaning method assumptions, and end-of-life assumptions.
*(UNEP 2021) United Nations Environment Programme (2021) “Single-use beverage cups and their alternatives - Recommendations from Life Cycle Assessments”
Integrating RFID technology into Loopedin’s inventory and supply-chain management model carries significant advantages for Loopedin’s clients. The technology effectively monitors container inventory items through the various stages of their usage- and life-cycles, as well as enables bulk processing and scanning at client intake and dishwasher processing points.
Crucially, the technology enables Loopedin to monitor and log the number of uses of each container over its lifetime and collectively over time, in order to validate the positive environmental impact which Loopedin, our clients and their customers are actively contributing to.
The RFID system also monitors for end-of-life notifications from inventory items to ensure that they are collected for recycling to close the loop