Reuse is reduce. The role of reuse business models in eliminating global plastic pollution

While there exist many solutions to turn off the tap on plastic waste, an increasing body of evidence shows that reducing the growth in plastic consumption is of utmost importance if we want to make a significant impact in cutting plastic pollution.

In fact, as the recent Breaking the Plastic Wave report from SystemIQ and PEW Charitable Trusts highlights, by mobilising currently available social, economic, and technical tools, we can reduce the planet’s plastic consumption by 30 percent by 2040 — that’s around 125 million metric tons of macroplastic waste, or the equivalent weight of more than 12 million Eiffel Towers, diverted away from the ocean.

One of the key focus areas here is to transition away from avoidable single-use plastics through innovative reuse solutions like new delivery models — services and businesses that provide the same utility as single-use plastics but without leaving any waste behind. Breaking the Plastic Wave report asserts that by expanding such innovative delivery models, alone, has the potential to reduce global plastic consumption by 18 percent over the next two decades. 

Particularly, zeroing in on reducing the demand of some of the most difficult to recycle plastics, namely sachets and multilayer packaging, can prevent more than 26 million metric tons of such low-grade plastics from ending up in the marine environment every year.

This is exactly the type of plastic packaging that the Zero Waste Living Lab’s ventures Koinpack and Qyos are targeting with their innovative reuse solutions. Instead of packaging each product in a separate single-use plastic sachet, Koinpack and Qyos provide the products in reusables by leveraging already available delivery routes such as local frequency stores and using innovative refill systems. 

What’s more, since the consumption of sachets and other nonrecyclable plastics is primarily concentrated in middle-/low-income countries, the reuse solutions offered by Qyos and Koinpack are particularly welcome in Indonesia, where they have a high potential to scale their solutions and thus accelerate the transition to better, low-waste alternatives.

Koinpack is offering a tech-enabled reusable system for fast-moving consumer goods, including dish soap, body wash, shampoo and detergent — typically served in disposable sachets — to warungs, local high frequency stores which are an essential part of daily life in Indonesia. Through a deposit and incentive scheme, Koinpack encourages customers to return the empty bottles and buy newly refilled ones, thus keeping the packaging in a circular loop and reducing the production of more unnecessary plastic. In collaboration with FMCGs, who provide the products, Koinpack takes care of the packaging’s reverse logistics, which includes collecting, cleaning, refilling and redistributing the reusable bottles to the stores, thus ensuring a hassle-free reusable system. Koinpack’s service not only enables consumers to reduce their plastic footprint but does so in a convenient and affordable way.

On the topic of convenience and affordability when switching to reusables, our newest venture Qyos is also a winner. The venture’s circular delivery model involves a smart refill vending machine located in the lobbies of huge apartment complexes. This allows residents to purchase their homecare products without having to leave their apartment block. Compared to Koinpack, where the cleaning and the refilling are arranged by the venture, Qyos provides its customers with the ability to fill containers of different sizes with the product of their choice. The refill dispenser itself is very easy to use with an integrated cashless and touchless system. Customers either bring their own reusable container or rent one from the dispenser, thus saving money on packaging costs while avoiding plastic waste.

In many ways Indonesia is the frontline of the world’s plastic problem therefore, customers, as well as most of the shop owners, are becoming increasingly conscious about their role in shifting the consumption paradigm towards a zero-waste future. Koinpack and Qyos have been established with the sole purpose of encouraging this shift, paving the way for a market in which reusables are nothing less than a normal part of our day-to-day consumer lifestyle. Giant multinationals are also coming to the realisation that in order to become future-proof they must revamp their supply chains to allow for circularity. This is where new delivery models offered by Koinpack and Qyos are emerging as attractive opportunities for impact.

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