PHOTO: Photo Illustration: Getty Images / Loop / CNN
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(CNN Business) —  

Kroger and Walgreens have joined an experimental new project that gives shoppers the opportunity to buy products in reusable packaging.

The two retailers will be part of the Loop platform, a service that offers shoppers a greener alternative to recycling. It’s launching as a pilot program in New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Maryland and Washington, DC on Tuesday.

Several major companies have vowed to reduce packaging waste by helping improve recycling infrastructure, using more recycled materials in their packaging and more. But Loop’s proponents argue reusable packaging is even more effective than recycling at reducing consumers’ environmental impact. Even recyclable single-use packages get thrown out in areas where recycling is unavailable or confusing to consumers. And packages made with recycled goods require energy to be produced. Reusable containers just need to be cleaned and shipped.

Products sold on Loop are packaged in reusable containers.
PHOTO: Photo Illustration: Procter and Gamble/CNN
Products sold on Loop are packaged in reusable containers.

Loop intends to make reusable packages mainstream by developing a new way to shop, featuring hundreds of well-known items (from Tide detergent to Pantene shampoo, Häagen-Dazs ice cream to Crest mouthwash).

It works as a delivery service: Participants use the products and put the empty containers in a Loop tote on their doorstep. The containers are then picked up by a delivery service, cleaned and refilled, and shipped out to consumers again. Like the milk man, Loop holds onto a deposit for the packages to ensure that they are returned.

Consumers can also pick up their products and drop off empty packages at participating retailers. That’s where retailers like Kroger and Walgreens come in. For now, customers have to sign up for the pilot program to gain access to the reusable goods at participating retailers. But eventually, the program will be open to regular shoppers.

“Innovative collaborations with partners like Loop are critical to solving the complex issue of reducing single-use plastics,” Lauren Brindley, Walgreens group vice president of beauty and personal care, said in a statement. “Our customers look to us to innovate so that together we can reduce waste and increase re-use.”

For now, Loop is still in test mode. The service, which was first announced during the World Economic Forum in January, is serving a limited number of people. Loop also launched a pilot program in Paris last week.