‘Milkman model’ grocery service leans into reusable containers

Milkman leans down to deliver milk
Photo: James W. Welgos / Stringer (Getty Images)

The post-World War II disposable food packaging boom meant more on-demand, grab-and-go food products, essentially eliminating the need for the old-school milkman and his reusable glass containers. It also meant more trash. Much more trash. Now, The Canadian Press reports that one Canadian grocery service is launching a “modern-day milkman” model, delivering brand-name groceries and household goods to doorsteps in reusable packaging.

Loop, an online shopping platform started by U.S.-based recycling company TerraCycle, teamed up with grocery giants to roll out the service in Toronto this week. Here’s how it works: products ordered online through Loop are delivered right to customer doorsteps, with everything from Heinz ketchup to Haagen-Dazs ice cream available in glass or metal refillable containers. When you finish a product, you clean it out and place it in a reusable Loop tote; at that point, Loop workers pick it up, sanitize it, and refill it for another customer.

While you might expect a price premium on this service, the products sold through Loop will reportedly cost the same as in stores. “The company is absorbing the cost because the aim is really to make it available to consumers,” a Loop spokesperson told The Canadian Press, explaining that the company expects to operate at a loss for at least a few years as customer mindsets gradually shift. Fortunately, Loop plans to expand fairly quickly. The Canadian Press explains that the delivery service is already available through Carrefour in France, Kroger and Walgreens in the U.S., and Tesco in the U.K. Would you shift to a milkman model for your everyday groceries? Sound off in the comments.

Staff writer @ The Takeout, joke writer elsewhere. Wrangling dogs and pork shoulder in Chicago.

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DISCUSSION

If you aren’t saving any money, would people want to clean containers that you don’t get to keep? Isn’t the company obligated to clean these containers (before reuse) in order to meet food safety regulations?