“We want to challenge the trash can with habitual items” – Page Schult
We didn’t even know that reusable packaging on a large scale was possible until we talked to Page about Topanga for this episode of the Environmental Podcast!
The Problem with Packaging
We covered the packaging problem in the very beginning of the EnvironMental Podcast with Episodes on:
- The Problem with Packaging
- The Future of Sustainable Packaging
- An Interview with the EcoFriendly Printer
- And our best suggestions for choosing a more sustainable option
According to the EPA, container and packaging waste makes up almost 30% of the total waste in the USA. THIRTY PERCENT!? A third of what we’re throwing away has no other purpose than to hold our stuff.
Most plastics packages are considered single use and are discarded immediately. Of those discarded plastics, at least 70% are sent immediately to the landfill (and we know that many recycling plants also send plastic to the landfill after sorting). In 2018 alone this was 10,090,000 US tons. And this number does not include single-service plates, cups, or trash bags.
Plastic packaging isn’t the only packaging problem though. Even if companies are focused on eco-friendly packaging, there is still a good chance that they are adding to the overall waste generation issue. For instance, cardboard boxes are by and far the largest source of packaging waste (roughly 1/3). Yes, they’re recycled at 80+%. But cardboard boxes are so prolific, that they add almost as much mass to the landfills as plastic packaging each year in the US.
Enter, Topanga.io – a reusable packaging solution that gets to the core of the issue.
Topanga.io: the Reusable Packaging Company
For this episode of EnvironMental Podcast, we happily spoke with Page Schult – co-founder of Topanga.io! Topanga is flipping the script on the packaging scene worldwide by offering businesses around the world the ability to have reusable packaging!
Not only does their mission attack the core of the packaging problem, it also serves to incentivize return customers – a two for one for any brand out there dedicated to sustainability!
How Topanga.io got started
We had A LOT of questions for Page about how Topanga and their reusable packaging programs operate. This is largely because we’ve worked with a lot of brands that have struggled to find a reusable packaging solution, so we’re curious, how did they crack the code? The answer was simple – they were their own test subjects!
Topanga started as a milkman-style grocery delivery service. In order to scale their own brand, they had to create the connections and the necessary technology for themselves. As you can see in the interview – Page is someone that wants to have as big of an impact as possible. So while being able to serve her own local area was cool, providing a sustainable solution globally is phenomenal!
So, in October of 2021, they decided to go all in on the Topanga.io reusable packing software. They redefined their mission: to create a digital infrastructure for the circular economy.
How it works
We want to preface this section by saying that every company is going to operate a little bit differently. While Page did a great job answering our difficult questions and explaining the basics of a program, no two company’s reusable packaging scheme are going to be exactly the same.
On the Business Side
To start with, Page and her team chats with each company to ensure that creating their reusable packaging scheme is both:
- economically viable for the business
- truly sustainable on an environmental level.
Once it’s established as a good choice for the business, Topanga connects the brand with the partners they need to fill the gaps in their circular packaging economy. This could be to supply the packaging itself, the dishwashers, or the warehouses. Of course, Topanga acts as the software interface throughout this entire process. Each business account has an accessible dashboard where they can see their packaging inventory, their customers, and their expected packaging returns.
The Customer Side of Reusable Packaging
The customer experience here is quite ingenious. In the interview, you’ll hear Page frame it sort of like a library (remember those?).
A customer will simply download the Topanga.io app – or perhaps the business’s specific app! This gives them a unique, “reuse ID.” Then, the business will scan the reusable package and assign it to the customer.
They give the customer a specific time frame to bring it back or they will pay for the package.
This is BRILLIANT. Especially for local businesses, because it ensures that customers return to the store. It allows brands to incentivize their returning customers, offering in-app coupons, milestones, and other opportunities for brand loyalty.
What do you think about reusable packaging? Let us know in the comments below!
and if you’d like to be on the EnvironMental Podcast with Dandelion, send us an email to firstname.lastname@example.org