Driving Value and Sustainability

June 1, 2009
Calculate advantages of reusable transport packaging.

World-class companies today are searching for ways to drive customer value, efficiency and sustainability throughout manufacturing, handling, storage and distribution. Evaluating the corporate approach to transport packaging is an important part of this strategic process.

Tracking costs associated with supply chain logistics helps highlight the expense associated with various packaging options. Similarly, a good understanding of activity-based costs leads to changes that directly benefit the bottom line.

Numerous companies have concluded that reusable packaging can reduce transportation costs, improve warehouse space utilization, decrease labor costs, improve productivity and reduce the risk of product damage. In these areas, durable reusable packaging demonstrates a clear advantage.

To perform your own financial analysis, try the Reusable Packaging Association's (RPA) online calculator.

Reusable packaging also supports corporate sustainability objectives because it can be used over and over again, so it reduces the need to replenish a non-reusable resource. Using fewer resources, coupled with more efficient use of existing assets, is good for a company as well as the environment. That's really the whole point of sustainability: to use what we have efficiently, thereby stretching out availability for the future.

Reusable packaging assets — containers, pallets and dunnage — have longer lifecycles than their one-use counterparts. And, at the end of life, a reusable asset can become input for a new reusable container, platform or some other useful product. Almost every reusable packaging asset can be recovered and reused again.

Moreover, sustainable packaging is likely to be legislated in the near future. Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) laws and regulations already have a strong foothold in most of Europe and have made their way into Canada. EPR laws make manufacturers responsible for the environmental impact of their products and packaging, and especially, for take-back, recycling and disposal.

Many U.S. municipalities and states have already adopted or are investigating EPR-type laws to help them deal with waste, and in some cases, they are forcing manufacturers to start rationalizing their packaging decisions.

Most environmental efforts today focus on source reduction and reuse, and for good reason. We can't recycle our way out of the waste we generate. We need bolder and newer strategies to reduce and reuse. It is for this reason that the RPA is partnering with the EPA Waste Wise Program (StopWaste.org), the Alameda County Waste Authority and the California Resource Recovery Association to help educate businesses about the role of reusables in a sustainable future.

All this leads back to the premise that, in today's economic and environmental sensitive times, reusable transport packaging makes sense. It delivers bottom-line results, helps create a more efficient supply chain system, recovers assets to be used again and contributes to system-wide sustainability.

I'd say taking a good look at reusable packaging makes perfect cents for the times.

Jerry Welcome is president of the Reusable Packaging Association. Contact him at [email protected].