Our supply chains are rapidly changing and have never been more complex. Coupled with customer demand for reusability and sustainability, companies are left looking for supply chain solutions that deliver superior performance and cost savings, while driving the circular economy.
But what is circularity? A circular economy is based on the principles of designing out waste, keeping products in use, and remanufacturing, all with little to no impact on natural ecosystems. As the industry looks to move away from limited- and one-time-use packaging, reusable plastic packaging is a sustainable material handling solution that operations can incorporate to support the circular economy.
From raw material to finished goods, reusable packaging solutions safely and efficiently move material and product along different points of the supply chain to their destination. These assets can be integrated into a single operation or an entire supply network to take the place of corrugated boxes and limited-use pallets.
With this in mind, here are four ways in which reusable packaging supports the circular economy and supply chain sustainability:
- Reduce waste and improve recycling. Designed to travel in a loop, reusable plastic totes, pallets, dunnage and bulk systems are used over and over during the course of their service life before being reprocessed and remanufactured into other packaging products. This prevents packaging from entering landfills. Similarly, the durability of reusable packaging can better protect contents and reduce product damage, leading to less waste. Certain packaging providers also offer reusable packaging management services to track packaging, maximize utilization and properly recycle packaging at the end of its useful life.
- Cut automation downtime. Reusable packaging is standardized, meaning it can better interface with automated systems. This reduces jams and improves the flow of product along the supply chain, with little to no system downtime. Downtime and inefficient operations can be costly and cause delays in production. Additionally, the smooth surfaces of reusable packaging are free of nails or flaps, preventing any stops within high-speed systems.
- Increase full load shipments. It’s important for companies to maximize the amount of product they can ship. The standardized design and stackable nature of many reusable plastic packaging products affords companies the ability to optimize trailers for outbound shipments, enabling fewer trips. And for return, or inbound shipments, empty packaging often nests or collapses to fit more in a truck. Fewer trips mean less trucks on the road, leading to reduced costs and emissions.
- Optimize labor. Today’s labor market is tight. In manufacturing plants, reusable packaging is designed to optimize both manual and automated handling. Many companies are looking for ways to move labor upstream, and reusables help accomplish this. Companies can reduce labor needs by putting consumer goods directly in retail-ready reusable containers at the manufacturing plant. Once at retail, reusable packaging solutions, like mobile pallets, can help streamline fulfillment, distribution and merchandising efforts, saving time and labor costs.
Now is the time to invest in innovative supply chain solutions that embrace and support the circular economy. By investing in reusable plastic packaging, companies can drive supply chain sustainability, ensure a competitive advantage, and position themselves for future growth.