U.S. businesses have been slow to get with the recycling (and reusable packaging) program, and their procrastination could be costing them money. The Reusable Pallet and Container Coalition (RPCC) aims to change that. The group has implemented a national grass-roots campaign to promote the cost advantages of using reusable materials, including reusable transport packaging, which consists of wood, metal or plastic pallets and containers that can be used multiple times before being recycled into other useful materials at the end of their life spans.
It used to be that reusing packaging actually cost companies money. "In the past,waste reduction efforts required businesses to spend extra time and money to implement them," says Ken Smith, president of the RPCC. "But today, reusables actually save money because they reduce damage to the contents housed inside and because no waste is generated."
"Reusable containers have a clear and measurable potential to save money in the long term," echoes Greg Murphy, corporate category manager for produce at SuperValu Inc., the nation's leading food distributor. SuperValu began using reusable containers in its produce department several years ago. "We see less damage to produce than we did with our corrugated boxes and wooden wire-bound containers, and we have reduced disposal costs," says Murphy. "The reusable containers also require less manpower for stocking and display."
Murphy described SuperValu's experience at a recent workshop on reusable transport packaging in Minneapolis. The workshop gave business leaders and state and local government officials an opportunity to get the latest information about the technology and learn more about its benefits. The RPCC plans to schedule similar workshops in other major cities through the balance of the year.
Like corporations, municipal officials, who face the growing challenge of finding appropriate locations for waste, stand to gain from the RPCC's initiative. "Trash disposal has become a crisis," says Victoria Reinhardt, Ramsey (Minn.) county commissioner and chair of the Solid Waste Management Coordinating Board. "We are running out of places to put garbage. This is a national crisis that is unfolding in every city throughout the nation.Addressing the issue requires business and government to work together." She adds that in a study conducted in 2001, Minneapolis and St. Paul found that pallets and cardboard boxes accounted for 15 percent of the garbage generated in the state. Reinhardt's agency has set a goal of reducing 75,000 tons of commercial packaging waste annually through the use of reusable transport packaging.
As part of its efforts, the RPCC also carried its message to a recent gathering of the American Plastics Council (APC) in Wisconsin to discuss the economic vitality of the plastics industry in that state.On the legislative side,the RPCC continues to fight for tax relief for reusable containers. Already, it has been successful in achieving tax reductions on reusables in Florida, Delaware and California.