Beneficial Impacts of Reusable Transport Packaging
Reusable transport packaging is becoming a rather important supply chain industry buzzword. Likewise, it is increasingly important for businesses to incorporate this concept into their shipping operations as consumer demand changes. In fact, many companies have experienced higher sales as a result of switching to reusable transport packaging as shoppers are shifting more and more toward purchasing goods and services that are environmentally friendly and sustainable.
What is Reusable Transport Packaging?
Reusable transport packaging is shipping packaging that can be reused and recycled. Whereas disposable transport packaging includes cardboard boxes, disposable crates, and plastic wrapping that are thrown away after one use, reusable transport packaging is built for a much longer lifecycle. And while these are generally materials that can be recycled at some point, they are usually made of more rigid and durable materials that will hold up to some heavy wear and tear.
Pallets make up the largest portion of reusable packaging according to the Reusable Packaging Association. Here are some common examples of other types of reusable packaging:
- Rigid containers, crates, bins, totes, and trays
- Plastic-corrugated panels, sleeves, and boxes
- Reusable plastic containers
- Intermediate bulk containers
- Foam-based transport packaging
- Carts and dollies
- Tanks, barrels, and drums
- Dunnage and cargo protection
Most Impactful Benefits of Reusable Transport Packaging
Disposable, single-use packaging requires that a company purchases packaging materials to cover whatever they need to ship, every single time. That process of continuously buying shipping materials never really stops. Goods get packaged, wrapped up and sent out on a pallet. Meanwhile, shipping materials are replaced at specific intervals over and over throughout the process to counter the waste.
The one major trade-off in regard to cost is that reusable packaging will likely cost more up-front. However, the front-loaded cost balances out in the long run as it saves the need to repurchase packaging materials quite as often.
Take pallets for example. Wooden pallets can last for about 3 to 5 years if kept in decent condition. However, many companies don’t reuse their wooden pallets, so they are often used only once and then discarded. Plastic pallets on the other hand are far more durable and most are built to last for upwards of 10 years.
Moreover, plastic pallets are not just more durable than their wooden counterparts, they also help reduce load weight. It’s estimated that replacing wooden pallets with plastic pallets can lower costs by 50%.
Increased efficiency and worker safety
When you compare single-use to reusable transport packaging, it is easy to see how inefficient disposable packaging is. Single-use packaging requires more work to break down and dispose of. It involves box cutting, handling oversized and heavy packages, and broken pallets that contain staples and nails, all of which can result in worker injuries.
Reusable plastic crates, totes, pallets and so on use ergonomic access doors and handles for easier, faster, and safer processing and handling. Since they are being reused, there is no need to break them down
Reusable transport packaging is generally associated with less product damage and cleaner transportation. For example, plastic pallets contain fewer areas for contaminants to build up and also have corners that reduce product damage due to snags and punctures. Furthermore, plastic pallets are better ventilated and more resistant to moisture, rusting, and odors than traditional wooden pallets.
This is not to say that there is zero risk of damage when using reusable materials. There is always risk of damage no matter what packing materials you utilize to ship your goods. Using reusable materials reduces this risk in a variety of ways, it does not completely eliminate it.
Aligning with better sustainability efforts
Because reusable transport packaging uses less waste than disposable packaging and is generally recyclable, it is the more sustainable option.
According to the Reusable Packaging Association, switching to reusable packaging in the supply chain can reduce solid waste by 86%, CO2 emissions by 60%, and energy consumption by 64%. Furthermore, there are many plastic containers and pallets that are made from 100% recycled material composite material, making it easier to meet your sustainability goals.
As discussed, improved sustainability may help to bolster your sales as well as reduce your carbon footprint. This means that you can begin to align more with consumer demand for more sustainable practices.
Things to Consider When Making the Switch
If your business is considering making the transition to reusable packaging, there are some additional things you should take into account before you get started.
Packaging tracking and reporting
To better leverage the new circular supply chain model and optimize it further, aggregating data regarding how well your packaging performs is crucial. Create and track key performance indicators and adjust quarterly as needed. This will keep things flowing at a steady pace while allotting enough time to pass for collection of some initial data in-between.
Tracking things such as packaging condition, lifecycle, costs, etc. will help you further scale your new sustainability-focused strategy.
Develop an internal system
Every part of your company’s supply chain network has to understand the new reusable transport packaging system. This will confirm that everyone knows that the packaging cannot be thrown out and must be returned.
Although transport packaging software can help you to stay on top of your packaging inventory and the status of your supplies, your company will need to develop an internal system understood by all employees handling and processing packages to make this transition successful.