1. I like this idea a lot. As for the cross-contamination thing, maybe the glass could be different colors based on what it’s used for. That way we automatically know that green is for hair care and clear is for food (or whatever).

  2. “When you’ve enjoyed your nachos and the jar is empty and rinsed, instead of tossing it in the recycling, you would toss it in a bag to return to the grocery store on your next shopping trip. Upon returning your empties, you would receive a refund of your packaging deposit. Retailers could even offer the refund in the form of store credit to build customer loyalty.”

    Hey! I live in Germany, and that’s exactly how plastic and glass bottles are handled; a deposit is part of the price, and after you use the product, you stick the bottle in a machine at the grocery store that scans or measures the bottle to determine how much your deposit was. The machine prints a receipt/coupon with your money-back total, which you take to checkout. I assume you can get cash back for it, but I’ve always had that amount deducted from my normal grocery total, if that makes sense.

    It seems to be a great system, and I wish it applied to a zillion other products! There’s still a ton of plastic packaging around here— often, individual cucumbers are wrapped in plastic. Drives me nuts.

    • Julia

      That’s awesome! Is it a recycling program, or do some of the returned containers actually get reused? Plastic packaging on produce is a huge pet peeve of mine too!

      • Kevin Collins

        Came to post the same comment about Germany! I know for sure that the beer bottles are re-used because you can see all of the scuffs on the older bottles! The “pfand” on aluminum cans and plastic bottles is 0.25EUR though, so there is some pretty heavy incentive to return it for recycling. There is also the added benefit of reducing littering. Littering went way down after implementation since people could go around collecting “trash” and make serious money off of it. You see tons of people at night digging in garbage cans looking for some quick cash.

  3. I also love this idea. I feel like companies would have to be mandated to do so – and I don’t even know which entity even remotely has that power.

  4. varsha

    Hello Maam,

    I live in Bangalore, India. I too wish to do something to reuse the dettol, vim, hair care bottles and many other plastic items. I think of a system which could get on collecting these things from homes, bifurcate them, clean and then give it back to companies for reuse. It bothers me that am doing nothing even though I see so much of plastic around me that is harming mother nature. I need help to take up this task. I felt I could share this with you.

    • Julia

      Thanks for sharing your vision! You’re right, plastic is another big problem. Applying this kind of collection and reuse program to plastic would require knowledge of the different types of plastic and how durable they are. I could see some plastics holding up well enough to be reused.

  5. Mike Thompson

    I had the same vision for reusable food packaging. It is certainly the future although distant, probably. Perhaps in 100 or 200 years something like this will be implemented when our descendants are wading through oceans of garbage from the current unsustainable packaging methods. It would be possible and likely more sustainable to have standardized plastic packaging since it is lighter and less fragile. Automated computer vision inspection systems could scan the washed containers for excessive surface wear or breakage, and reject worn containers for recycling. The only way to implement this system would be through federal regulation, unless some company can invest so heavily in this future that corporations would start to look bad if they didn’t adopt it (I’m looking at you, Waste Management). The reusable packaging system would be integrated into existing recycling services with home pickup.

  6. Marcus Rosenthal

    I have been brainstorming a similar idea lately and think that is where things need to go, but it won’t be easy. The dream would be that homes and businesses would start having a reuse bin in addition to or instead of trash, recycling, and compost. If the materials for re-use could be labeled properly and then there was an established cleaning and sanitation system that could be used by either the company handling the reuse containers or the end users (food companies, restaurants, or grocery stores). Anyone know of good materials that reusable containers could be made out of. Glass is good, but may be too heavy so shipping costs would go up. Maybe the Amazon acquisition of Whole Foods will be a first step to enable this type of ecosystem?

    • Julia

      That’s an interesting thought about the Amazon/Whole Foods acquisition. If anyone has the logistical strength to pull off a pilot like this, it would be Amazon. I agree that the weight (and breakability) of glass isn’t ideal. Maybe there’s a future in lightweight, durable carbon-fiber packaging!

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