What Is Reusable Packaging?

How Does Reusable Packaging Improve the Supply Chain?

Reusable transport packaging generally includes pallets, bins, tanks, intermediate bulk containers (IBCs), reusable plastic containers (RPCs) and other hand-held containers and totes, trays and dunnage that move products efficiently and safely through supply chains.  These packaging products are designed for lasting use in a system that ensures their effective recovery and return for continuous purpose.  Typical uses involve the transport of raw materials, commodities, ingredients or parts to facilities for the manufacture or processing of goods, and then for the shipment of finished goods to distribution centers or warehouses in route to commercial markets such as wholesale or retail outlets.  Reusable transport packaging products are largely designed for business-to-business applications, although the growth of e-commerce and home delivery applications is opening opportunities for the effective use of reusable packaging for transporting merchandise to households.

Reusable transport packaging is constructed of durable materials such as metal, plastic or wood and is designed to achieve multiple uses through rigorous operations and logistics systems. Reusable transport packaging is composed of recyclable materials that can be recovered, refurbished or re-manufactured.  The contrast to reusable packaging is single-use or one-way packaging, such as a corrugated box, which is design for one-time use before it is disposed and recycled or land-filled.

Reusable transport packaging generally meets four requirements to be considered “reusable” by the RPA:

  1. The packaging is designed for reuse in the same or similar application, or for another purposeful packaging use in a supply chain.

  2. The packaging is highly durable to function properly in its original condition for multiple trips and its lifetime is measured in years.

  3. During its useful life, the packaging is repeatedly recovered, inspected, repaired if necessary, and reissued into the supply chain for reuse.

  4. The packaging operates in a system that prevents it from solid waste, and a process is in place for the recovery and recycling of the product at its end of life.