returnable plastic packaging help companies reduce global waste

The Critical Role of Returnable Plastic Packaging in Supply Chain Sustainability

Both regular people and logistics professionals in various industries still have a misconception related to the term returnable plastic packaging. The first thing they think of is the Styrofoam box or plastic coffee cup. For this reason, this title may sound like a contradiction of terms.

Yet, it is perfectly true and logical. The kind of plastic packaging materials we are talking about are true game-changers for the global supply chain. They have very little in common with single-use plastic packaging, save from the basic raw material they are derived from.

How Returnable Plastic Packaging Reshape Logistics and Warehousing

Professional reusable packages are more than a better version of traditional wooden and cardboard crates and boxes. Starting with design and selection of materials to testing and certification, these packages meet the challenges and standards of the new global supply chain.

Over the years, working closely with clients operating in various industries, we had the opportunity to understand their internal logistic loops and the pressures from regulators and competitors. These insights are passed to our R&D team, which uses them to design reliable packaging which:

  • Can be integrated into robotized production and packaging lines
  • Have space saving features (foldable or collapsible) to save storage space
  • Meet the strictest safety and hygiene standards
  • Have standardized sizes, allowing easy handling at every point of transit.

When Returnable Plastic Packaging Is the Solution, Not the Problem

Now let us return to the key topic at hand here. We made a bold claim – that returnable plastic packaging are sustainable – and it is time to prove it with arguments. These arguments are based on our professional know-how and from direct experience with clients.

1. Returnable Packaging Materials Are Made from a Byproduct of Oil Processing

Reusable plastic containers, pallets and crates are made from high density polyethylene (HDPE), polypropylene (PE) or polypropylene carbonate (PPC). These materials are byproducts of crude oil processing.

Thus, it is not necessary to use up natural resources to produce these packaging materials. Unlike wooden pallets, which require fresh timber, plastic pallets are sustainable. There is no need to use natural resources specifically for the purpose of producing them.

2. They Are Called Returnable Packaging Because They Have a Long Lifespan

But let us focus on the idea of reducing waste. And the simplest way in which plastic containers and pallets achieve it is through their long lifespan. Traditional corrugated cardboard packaging is usually one-way packaging.

Even wooden crates and pallets have a limited lifespan. They tend to break and splinter and have to be replaced once every few years. By comparison, HDPE pallets and crates can be used for 5 years or more, with proper care.

Thus, in five years, a single plastic container replaces up to three wooden crates and countless cardboard boxes. This translates into both increased sustainability and reduced waste.

3. Plastic Pallets and Containers Meet the Highest Safety Standards

The food and pharma industry need to comply with the strictest standards of hygiene and safety. In this situation, companies operating in this industry would invest in a series of packaging materials – including single-use layers or bags to prevent the contact between the product and the crate or pallet.

There is no need to spend money – and generate waste – on these extra packaging materials. The returnable plastic packaging solutions created specifically for the food and pharma industry meet the highest hygiene standards. Some of them are made from materials approved for food contact – they do not leak chemicals or any other dangerous substances into raw food, like meat, fish or dairy products.

4. Some of the Packaging Materials Are Made from Recycled Materials

While most clients opt for plastic pallets and crates made of virgin HDPE or PP, there is an increasing number of companies ready to use returnable plastic packaging made of recycled materials.

They differ from virgin materials very slightly in terms of aspect and physical properties. Each product is carefully tested to check that it meets all requirements in terms of load bearing capacity and resistance to mechanical shocks.

6. All Returnable Packaging Materials Are 100% Recyclable

What happens to all these large plastic containers and pallets once they finally reach the end of the lifespan? They do not end up in the landfill. Instead, they get sent to a recycling facility. Thus, they will begin a new life, as other useful items.

Main Takeaways

As we are forced to reconsider the way we use natural resources and reduce our carbon footprint, we need to find sustainable solutions for every aspect of our life and work. When it comes to packages, they are among the most common sources of pollution and waste.

However, as industries work harder to embrace environmentally friendly technologies, solutions start to appear. Returnable plastic packaging is just one piece of the puzzle – but it plays a crucial role in making the global supply chain greener.

Logistic Packaging experts are ready to help you find the best packaging solutions to reduce waste and optimize your supply chain operations. Send us an email to start discussing your packaging needs with us!