As companies continue to drive sustainability in their business, they look to scrutinize every part of their operation, including the packaging used to move their product. Leading manufacturers are increasingly turning to their supply chains for ways to become more sustainable and incorporate the three R’s in the environmental hierarchy: reduce, reuse and recycle. Reusable plastic packaging for the supply chain incorporates all three concepts. Reusable plastic containers, dunnage and bulk systems improve the flow of product all along the supply chain to reduce costs, enhance profitability and add sustainability. Here are three ways in which reusable plastic packaging supports the three R’s:
Reduce Expendable Packaging
Manufacturers need to find ways to part ways with expendable packaging in their supply chain when it makes sense. A switch from expendables to reusables not only reduces waste but also helps products move more efficiently and safely. Reusable packaging solutions, like totes and pallets are more durable than that of corrugated boxes or wood pallets, which can be easily damaged. In better protecting the product, manufacturers can minimize product loss and, as a result, reduce waste. When choosing multi-trip reusable packaging, companies avoid the recurring disposal of single-use expendables.
Reusables are ideal for well-controlled supply chain loops. While reusables create the need for a return trip, their long service life, standardized designs and better ability to protect product create efficiencies all throughout the supply chain. For return trips, there are freight efficiencies with reusable plastic packaging that reduce return transportation costs and, in turn, reduce emissions. Due to the standardized dimensions and collapsible nature of many reusable plastic packaging solutions, more packaging fits in standard trucks so manufacturers can limit the amount of trucks needed for a return trip. This leads to fewer trips, more cost savings and reduced emissions.
Reuse Multiple Times
Wood pallets may seem like the more attractive option due to their upfront price, but in the long run, their useful life is much shorter than that of their reusable counterparts. Reusable plastic packaging products last for many cycles through the supply chain, leading to a compelling ROI.
In a closed loop system, plastic pallets make a tremendous number of trips before being recycled. In one study by the Virginia Tech Center for Packaging and Unit Load Design, researchers found that the 40-by-48-inch RackoCell® plastic pallet has approximately 18 times the life span of a 40-by-48-inch whitewood stringer pallet. Similar longevity and ROI can be seen across all types of reusable packaging.
Recycle Into New Packaging
By design, reusable plastic totes, pallets, dunnage and bulk systems are used over and over during the course of their service life. At the end of their life, they can be recovered, recycled and reprocessed into new packaging products, without entering the solid waste stream.
Innovative recycled material options are also growing in popularity. For example, recovered and recycled plastic coastline waste can being used in reusable packaging for the supply chain. This material recovery offers a new stream of recycled content for reusable plastic packaging that not only reduces waste but conserves natural coastlines.
The long-term cost reduction and ROI of reusable plastic packaging, coupled with its sustainable benefits, far outweigh the initial costs and often pay back within 10 to 18 months. When you use plastic reusable packaging, not only will you reduce labor, shipping and waste disposal costs but you will also make a positive impact on the environment.