- Bold Reuse has launched a closed-loop system pilot program for glass retail packaging in Portland, Oregon, the company detailed in an announcement Friday. The effort has funding from an $87,000 grant from Metro, the regional government agency for the Portland metropolitan area.
- Shoppers at local grocery chain New Seasons Market who buy glass-packaged products from five initial participating brands can return those bottles and jars to the stores after use. Bold Reuse will then handle collection, washing and sanitizing before redistributing the containers to vendors.
- The program will run through the end of 2023, at which time organizers will evaluate data like return rates and how many jars were fit for reuse, said Bold Reuse Customer Success Manager Kelsey Azoubel Mitchell. “Ideally at the end of the year, what we'll have is a blueprint for scalability and for replication, either in other cities or in different locations,” Mitchell said.
Food and beverage businesses often face challenges in setting up reuse systems because of cost and access to washing equipment, among other issues. Portland-based Bold Reuse said in its announcement that its pilot circumvents some of those common sticking points by collecting at locations that consumers are already familiar with and frequently visit, and because it already has washing infrastructure in place. It says it is “finally making glass return a possibility on a large scale.”
Despite being “material-agnostic,” the company (known as GO Box until last year) wanted to focus on glass for this effort in part because food producers are “paying huge amounts per jar,” Mitchell said, also noting issues with breakage in curbside recycling systems.
“The cost of glass packaging has hit an all time high. This is forcing manufacturers to move to less sustainable options like pouches and plastic. We need to develop a new system of reuse to allow makers to continue using the highest quality packaging for their products,” said project partner Hannah Kullberg of PNW Food & Beverage, a resource-sharing network for local food business founders and leaders, in a press release.
It’s also an environmental justice issue, Mitchell explained.
“Oregon has a great history of recycling but, particularly in Portland, the glass recycling plant is in a pretty economically disadvantaged neighborhood. Glass recycling requires a lot of heat and a lot of energy and produces emissions,” Mitchell said. “So if we can reuse as many products as possible before they're broken down and melted into their original parts to then be reformed, we see that as a really easy win-win-win, where just about everyone involved benefits.”
Bold Reuse saw an opportunity to “plug and play,” leveraging existing infrastructure and partnerships to have “as few barriers to entry as possible in this testing phase,” Mitchell said. The company already had an ongoing partnership with New Seasons for reusable containers.
It opted to work with vendors that already use glass, have adhesives that can be removed cleanly, sell at New Seasons and have local operations to reduce the impact of miles traveled. Given Metro’s grant support, vendors did not need to provide a monetary contribution. There is no deposit involved in the pilot.
“Hopefully once we actually launch and there's proof of concept and people can see how the program is working” more vendors will be added, Mitchell said. “There's other brands in Portland that would fit that bill and we'd be really excited to welcome more people on as the program gains momentum.”